I had studied electrical engineering in India but wanted to move into the direction of policy, which is when I found out about the Master of Energy Change at ANU.
When I asked the ANU representative in India if she knew anyone else doing my program, she responded with, 'Yes, there's some guy in Pune,' - and that's how I met Ani.
We were living about 1,500 kilometers apart in India and couldn't catch up in person. But we were in communication for a month on WhatsApp talking about what we were taking with us to Australia, what flights we were catching, and those kinds of things. Eventually, we both arrived in Canberra -two days apart and met each other finally in person. Since, Ani had his accommodation sorted on campus right away, his place became the spot for us to hang out and plan anything academic or fun.
I remember Ani was feeling homesick initially. It was the first time he had lived away from his family. As O-Week was still a week away, not many people were on campus at that time. For me, homesickness was not a problem as I have been a nomad for a large part of my life. But I was glad that I could be there to give company for my new friend.
And Ani helped me too - the biggest challenge for me was the quietness. I used to work and live in New Delhi, a bustling city which has the population equivalent to that of entire Australia. Coming to Canberra, I wondered, 'Where are the people?' The culture shock, the food, the lingo - it was a different world for both of us. To get on top of things, we were just crazily signing up for everything during our first week - running around and exploring all that we could together.
Interestingly, I saw a similar scene happening again back in February this year - a group of students who had just arrived in the country, trying to figure out stuff. It made me realise 'That was exactly Ani and me, four years ago!' It's a natural part of the journey. You must put yourself out there, and we did.
Back in India, the university system is a bit more rigid, and so we loved the relaxed nature of Australia and ANU. I think it took us a few weeks to gauge how we needed to operate, as we had come from such a different mindset in India. We helped each other understand the system and feel at home at ANU.
It wasn't always easy, especially during COVID, but we encouraged each other and showed each other the numerous opportunities out there. And now, I'm happy to call Canberra "home". It took me a month to get used to it, and after that, I thought, 'This is bliss. This is what I've been missing in my life.'