Pulkit Dewan's friends now know him for what he is: Imperfect but grounded. Photo: Ketil Blom Haugstulen
Pulkit Dewan's friends now know him for what he is: Imperfect but grounded. Photo: Ketil Blom Haugstulen

Stories: Spicy Curries and Jokes That Make No Sense

Indian. Why was I trying to fit in when I could be myself and let people love me for who I was, who I am. In this race of finding someone to talk to, I realized that I was not my original self anymore.

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Voices of Our Time

Over the past months ISU Norway has been collecting stories from international students, both on exchange and on full-degree programs, as part of their «ISU Stories» project.

And one Norwegian student going abroad.

Khrono will be publishing some of these stories the coming week.

«Hi, why are you in Norway today», the immigration officer at the airport asked me in the wee hours on that cold Monday morning on the 7th of August, 2017.

After 10 hours of journey from New Delhi to Oslo and waiting over an hour in the Non-EU passport holders’ queue, I had no strength left to mouth words.

«University of Stavanger! I mean I got accepted in a master’s program, yay», I whispered to myself while wondering if this was really why I came this far up north, thousands of miles away from home.

Yes, I did manage to pass through the counter and took a train that night for my onward journey to this tiny city on the south-west coast they call Stavanger. It is the third largest metropolitan area in Norway, but c’mon, I come from India.

The reason was simple, or so I think it was. I was working in the offshore industry, it was 2016, the oil price fell flat on its face in the world market. A 25-year-old me did not get a deserving appraisal that year so I was looking forward to change. I heard if the market ever comes up, it will begin with this country and so I applied to the program of my specialization and boom, rejection!

A year later I sent in another application and with that came an acceptance letter in my mailbox. I was elated, and what I actually was looking forward to was going beyond my level of comfort back home. In my land, it is common for children to stay with their parents forever and I was no exception, but I wanted to cross the boundaries, take a chance at knowing myself.

I hosted dinners, but the curry was too spicy, my jokes were not working. I was trying to fit in, but it was a battle I lost.
Pulkit Dewan
Student, University of Stavanger

So, there I was in my room in a student dormitory in Stavanger, and the first month just passed by with a few acquaintances, but no one to call a friend. September came and it was the longest month of the year. Life felt no different – get up, breakfast, lectures, lunch, assignments, dinner, sleep and repeat!

I hosted dinners, but the curry was too spicy, my jokes were not working. I was trying to fit in, but it was a battle I lost. «Have I lost my charm? I have been social enough before and loved, but what went wrong here?». I pondered over these questions over a million times, but in this race of finding someone to talk to, I realized that I was not my original self anymore.

I love feeding my lot, but why did I feel as if I had a different purpose? Why was I trying to fit in when I could be myself and let people love me for who I was, who I am. I remember that I had gotten back to my room early from a gathering for I «felt» I didn’t fit in, as usual. It was after that freezing night in October and a year and a half later, all I have done is – just being myself.

The curries are still spicy, my jokes still don’t make sense to my friends, but what is different today is that I have the best lot with me who I call my family in Stavanger. They know me for what I am, imperfect but grounded. They are from all around the world – from the United States, Iran, Spain, Indonesia, Dubai, Egypt, Pan-Africa, Pakistan and Norway. Sticking to our roots is what makes each of our stories unique – it is what reminds us every time that no matter who you are or where you come from, you are special. Living with them has taught me so much, so many lessons I would not have learned back home.

Understanding each other’s cultures and trying to bridge the gap in communication has helped us come together. It is a bond we built over months of sharing our stories with each other.

The future is uncertain, I am not sure where life will take me next, but I am okay with that for now – I am enjoying every minute of the present. We are graduating this summer, it has been a wonderful journey and these fellas have learned a great deal of Bollywood moves but my job here is not yet done! Stavanger will always hold a special place in my heart for it is my home away from home and by “her” grace, I spread my Pulkitness every second of the day!

This story was first posted on ISU Norway's blog.

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