Once Upon a Time, on a Plane-By N N S Chandra

I departed for Austin, Texas on May 26, only a day after enduring the cruel heat of the north Indian summer. As I watched the lights of the cultural capital twinkle beneath the window of my descending plane, I reminisced of the last I had seen of that particular view. 

When I last stepped foot in Texas, the Middle East was a sparking powder keg of Sunni and Shi’ite jihadists, America was ripe with racial tensions, and mother nature was punishing unlucky souls around the world with brutal and heartbreaking displays of her power.

Many years later, I yet again step into Texas having received an invitation to present a paper and speak at the NACAC conference on ‘Mastering college admission counselling’ in Austin. My co-researchers and I were involved in collecting data on counselling practices in the USA, Europe and India for over four years.

On my way out of Austin, I happened to sit beside an elderly couple, who I soon learned had been attending the 50th Peace Corps reunion at the University of Texas. It was (and continues to be) the official volunteer program of the United States, designed to help build relations between America and less-fortunate countries by sending out volunteers that commit to a season of general assistance in a given nation.

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This particular couple had met and fallen in love during their training, and then requested being stationed to the same place, which ended up being pre-Ayatollah Iran. For many years, they taught and worked with people of an entirely different culture, going so far as to become fluent in the Persian language. 

Though their story was fascinating and their passion infectious on its own right, what impressed me the most was how, despite the length of that 50-year period between their training and their reunion, it was obvious how heavy an influence those two short years of youthful energy had been.

For those of you who are looking to be admitted to international post-secondary institutions and complete your degree program something you must understand about the counsellors and professionals and professors you will interact with is that many of them have had a similar experience of genuine youthful energy that has shaped them; not to pad their resume or to build a portfolio, but rather for the sake of the thing in itself.

Meanwhile, I would encourage all of you to bring that same level of sincere intensity to your extra-curricular work, no matter what context that work may take place in. 

Not only because it will help you stand out in a sea of disingenuous college applicants, but also so that in 50 years’ time, if someone was to sit beside you on a plane, you can describe all your experiences with the same level of love, contentment and lack of regret that I heard from the elderly couple who entertained me with their story.  

This commentary draws from an article by N.N.S. Chandra published on Rediff.com. You may read the full article at http://www.rediff.com/news/special/finding-peace-lessons-learnt-in-texas/20150612.htm