A brand new semester, back in Uppsala. New friends, new faces and new allegiances. Also, a new set of plan of my last academic years. At one instance, it seemed like everything is fitting into a perfectly knitted grand scheme of things to come.
Only if the things went according to my plan.
Scenario one: finding a housing in Uppsala this year is difficult beyond belief. The youngsters born in the 1990s have graduated from high school. Due to the worldwide recession, those folks who didn't choose academia, ended up jobless. This year is the time when everyone turned their eyes from the depleted job opportunities to higher education. The university officials, incompetent as they are, admitted more students than what the local housing options can possibly accommodate. Also being the last tuition-free year for master students coming from outside EU, the influx of international graduate students is at a historic high. With my 1700 days in the line at a major housing company, I only got an apartment after three rounds of selection. The move-in was set at September 1st, two days since the semester start. During my first ten days in Uppsala, I lived at a friend's place. He was kind enough to let me sleep on a comfortable mattress in his living room. This guy and me, we were in the same class since freshman year. Now he's doing his master thesis. It's like living a life connected by three dots: BMC, the institute where he works; home; the ICA store where he purchases grocery. Life is boring and it sucks.
Scenario two: most of the people I knew since earlier are either taking a year off, or working on master thesis. There are few familiar faces in my classes. My social circle in Uppsala is facing a decline. My friend Anna with astonishing prowess in Chinese, went to China; Sven the nice dude from Chemical Engineering chose one year in Shanghai after losing a student board election; A clique of girls in my major either transferred to Gothenborg or remain in Adelaide on exchange. Other than my friends who departed, more are on their way to leave the town. Mohammad my IBO-alumnus is going to Chicago for his master thesis in a few months. Without the company of my closest friends, I'm yet again a new guy in town.
Scenario three: I finally moved into my new apartment. It seems like the previous patron from either India, Pakistan or Bangladesh abused the condo badly (his name was still on the mailbox). The wallpapers are completely greased. The doors are full of dents. The funniest part is, he even removed the light bulbs from the kitchen, the bathroom, and the closet. Something you definitely shouldn't do in a Swedish apartment for rent. This apartment came unfurnitured. The first few weeks in school are totally wasted on buying furnitures and making my home look good. Whenever I'm cooking or just hanging around, I keep finding new traces of past abuse. I don't wanna act like a racist. Though I strongly encourage people to not live into their own stereotype, giving the true racists reasons to justify their actions.
Scenario four: One of my best friend is supposed to write his bachelor thesis in Economics. However, due to a misunderstanding between him and his faculty advisor, he failed to register the thesis-writing as a course. This semester, he got no course registered. Which in turn meant no study aid from CSN, the Swedish Board of Study Aid. Initially we were supposed to share the apartment together with a third patron from China. Since he got no money, he had to back out. To fund his living, my troubled friend must find a job. I can't blame him, although I sincerely hope this transpiration won't disturb our perfectly maintained friendship. I'm sharing the apartment with two Chinese graduate students now.
Scenario five: it's gonna take longer before I can graduate. If I insist on having my master thesis in US, I must wait. Mohammad is going to Chicago in January, and he was accepted as early as in May. Two people from my major started their own iGEM team. Both of them got projects to work on stateside. They were admitted when I was still in Cornell and they are going in January as well. The lapse of at least one semester is required from the point one gets admitted til the actual visit. I realized when I was indulging myself with the Cornell experience, my Swedish classmates weren't sitting around doing nothing either. Since they stayed for a prolonged time in Uppsala and obtained experience within the local research sector, they gained an upper hand. Even with the valuable trainings Cornell offered, I ended up "in their game". For example, the iGEM folks would never peer into iGEM if they went abroad. They wouldn't know enough people in Uppsala to build a team and get financial support. In some sense, it's better to stay at one institute than moving around. It's good to get new experiences, but if you want to accomplish something, sometimes you have to settle down and let time fullfil its promises. I have no clue of what's gonna happen to me next semester. It would suck so much if I can't make it to USA before summer. I'll become a super-uber-senior who takes too long to graduate. Besides, I won't even have those friends with master thesis around me anymore. They'll be graduating in spring and leave the town.
Even with a few difficulties in my social as well as academic life, there are a few things I haven't lost my grip on. I'm mostly interested in synthetic biology. Unfortunately Uppsala has no research program or courses offered in the field. I want to find a lab in US working on it. To prepare myself, I signed up for a literature project course. You are to read articles on a given subject and submit a review. I chose synthetic biology. I want to read up on the subject so I will know for sure what I'm gonna work on. Also, it's a chance for me to prove myself for my future lab supervisor that I know a great deal about synthetic biology even without having worked in a synethic biology lab. My friend who offered me housing earlier suggested since Uppsala has no synthetic biology, I can perhaps bring it here. After working and gaining enough experience from my future research abroad, I should try to lead my own synthetic biolog team in Uppsala and become a professor. When that day comes, I must hire a bunch of good-looking babes as my students, and put my friend right in the middle of all those wonderful creatures. "By then, you can finally repay my favor!" He gave out a laughter.
Tomorrow is a big day. My parents are coming to help me furnish my room. After that it's an important meeting. I still love US much more than Sweden. Hopefully I'm going to see the "land of freedom" again in the near future.