So what’s the natural course of action once you’ve defended your PhD thesis? Everybody knows the answer to that. It is to do a postdoc. It was what everyone I knew did. And, it’s what was advised to me by my advisor. So, I took up the one postdoc offer that I got. No surprises there, coz when you’re from a developing country like India you get one offer from US or Europe if you’re lucky. So, I accepted the one offer and set about asking for advice from everyone who has traversed this path before, which was basically everybody who finished their PhDs before me. As expected, they told me it was going to be tough. I would have to work longer hours. I would have some amount of freedom in the problem I chose to work on, but overall it was going to be work, work and only work. On the plus side, they told me, I would learn new techniques, would develop new problem solving skills and would become better at my job. They also told me it would be fun.
But, what they didn’t tell me was how lonely it would get here in the US. How the culture is so different from that in India that the first few months might make you question your very decision to come here. How people here don’t give a damn about the new person who has just arrived, because to be fair to them, they see new people arrive by the hundreds every week. So then, you are alone trying to get things done, trying to settle down, trying to make a new home in this strange city, this strange country where no one knows you and you know no one. It is during these first few months of settling down here that you realize how much you value your family, who despite being several thousand miles away from you, still provide the emotional support you so desperately need. It is here that you reach a whole other level of the learning process. And this, is just the beginning.