Avani Konduri - MA Work & Organisational Behaviour
Exit, pursued by a bear
My first memory of UCC four months ago was of standing in front of its gates awed by its majestic grounds. Awe gave way to apprehension and then to the sheer excitement and anticipation of somehow needing to navigate new cultures, experiences and most importantly, toilet paper.
My first memory of my classmates was of standing to introduce myself, supremely conscious of my Indian accent, my hair sticking up, dried out by the cold Irish weather, struggling to keep down my tendency to make really bad jokes – an unfortunate response to anxiety. I remember standing up, introducing myself and declaring to the possible relief of my classmates that my name was available for customized pronunciations.
I remember being intimidated by the wealth of knowledge and experience that my classmates brought with them. These are people who accrued wisdom about life and work that I had barely scratched the surface of. Diverse backgrounds and varied perspectives created a classroom that was incredibly stimulating but amidst all of this, my feeling of being ‘different’ made me conscious of what I was saying and how I was saying it. Still, the more I opened my eyes, the more I realized that it was only I who was fixated on feeling different like it was an unpleasant thing. In UCC, especially within the Work and Organisation Psychology classroom – all of us are different and we are all great for it.
On the last day of the exams, we went to a pub – an unofficial class trip of sorts. I remember flashes of conversation, getting to know each other on a level that we had not been able to before. There was a particular focus on my experiences with an Irish mouse, the origins of toilet paper and my inability to navigate clothes dryers and somehow shrinking my personal belonging indiscriminately. Conversations about politics, art, literature and relationships were held over big beers and bigger laughter. There was a feeling of camaraderie as we discussed our experiences over the semester. For some it was balancing family and study and for me, it was living in a country which only three months ago, standing outside the UCC gates, had felt so unfamiliar but, in that moment, felt like the most familiar place in the world - and not just because I drank Irish Coffee and surprised everyone by actually enjoying it.
Ireland may be cold but the people are warm. I left that day with newfound knowledge about the multiple ways to catch a mouse, tips on how to prevent clothes shrinking in the dryer (by not using a dryer) and gratitude to my classmates - for the way they welcomed new cultures into their midst, for being as open, unprejudiced and kind as they are, for pronouncing my name better than most Indians do, for being a huge part of my ‘international’ experience, and for paying for the drinks.
I look forward to a new semester of more learning and fewer mice (of any nationality).
Avani Konduri - MA Work & Organisational Psychology/Behaviour
Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker? (quote by Garth Nix)
It seems like only yesterday that I was writing my previous blog post, toasting to a new semester of learning and fewer interactions with rodents. Yesterday marked the last day of the second semester and the potential end to my formal education. Although I still have an entire term of research ahead of me, I am saddened that I will have rarer excuses to pull out my highlighters to make notes in refill pads about organisational psychology while sitting in front of PowerPoint presentations; and more reasons to actually get back on LinkedIn and update the profile I created 5 years ago, and to look for a job.
I left class yesterday feeling hopeful, happy, sad, excited, nervous and as has become usual for me, unbelievably cold. And as I walked, I pondered. I realized I had a long way left to go, the hour-long walks to my home notwithstanding.
The walk back home from college is one of the most productive parts of my day. Maybe it is the combination of the darkness, the cold wind blowing through my hair and other available openings on my person; or the music playing through my earphones - I feel invincible. Darkness has always inspired me and made me feel powerful. So, as I walked back home yesterday, I had a few epiphanies, inspired by the dimly lit streets and the Imagine Dragons blaring through my earphones: Opportunities never look the same for everyone; I can always find a way to get my (large-sized) foot in the proverbial door, find a job that can get me started and then find a way to grow from there; it’s also okay to say I am scared, to seek help and talk to people. I have my doubts about my skillset, a few dents if you will, but I also know that there is a lot I can offer professionally. It's a matter of creating a personal brand, a more comprehensive version of myself – a brand that I believe in and that will get others to believe in me.
I am going to be spending the next few months working on my dissertation on how culture mediates the experience of transitioning from university to work. I can already see how so many people view jobs as a symbol of achievement, success and respect. And of course, jobs are important – here I am writing an entire blog post on how I’m trying to deal with getting one – but I had a final epiphany as I turned into the road leading to my home. What I have learnt in these 7 months goes beyond the classes I attended. This includes the life lessons that have come from cooking, cleaning, doing (and trying to dry) laundry, operating a gas heater (which is somehow harder than it looks), learning about cultures different from my own, navigating the myriad ‘Irish’ accents and even looking after my own health. I have challenged so many aspects of myself and today, I find myself that much more aware of who I am and what I can do.
This just means that as I look for a job, I am going to channel into the person I believe I am when walking back home in the darkness - sometimes like a rockstar, sometimes like Liam Neeson in ‘Taken’, sometimes like a ruler of the Seven Kingdoms but always, always, inevitably, the best version of me.
From me to myself: Like my grandparents said, “Avani, learning is a lifelong journey” and there will always be reasons to use highlighters and refill pads.
To others on the same journey: Tap into that which makes you feel like you can believe in yourself and ride that wave till you make it.
PS: UCC offers free counselling services and a career counselling service on campus. Please do make use of it if you think it might help you. It helped me.