Unexpected events

Last edited on Sat, 24 Jul 2010 17:27:49 -0400

The disastrous academic term

After writing my last exam for the fall, I was convinced that I would fail the term. The last two exams that term were the worst during my entire career in Waterloo. Failing the term would mean that I would have to wait for a year and then repeat the term. While that sounds easy to say, there is actually a lot to lose in the process. Firstly, I would have to repay my tuition and rent for that entire term - an estimate of CAD 15,000. Secondly, I would have to retake all the courses for the term, including the ones I didn't fail. That would include redoing all the four time-consuming labs components that I had so painstakingly completed during the term. Thirdly, I would lose one year of my life, which would a make a total of two because of the year I had lost after high school due to a series of bad decisions. Fourthly, I would lose all my friends in the program, since they would now be a year ahead of me, which means we wouldn't share the same classes anymore and we wouldn't graduate together anymore. Their lives would lie on a different path from mine. Fifthly, I would have to look for a new design project team, which would be hard in light of the fact that I would be in a class filled with complete strangers, most of whom have already formed groups within themselves. Sixthly, and finally, I would have to look for new friends in a class where people have been together for three years and thus have already made strong friendships and wouldn't be willing to make new friends. Having friends is important to my career because without connections, an engineer is nothing. Needless to say, at this point my future looked grim - these were the darkest days of my life thus far. If only I had studied harder during the term!

Home sweet home

I flew home on the 28th of December, 2008. The last time I visited home was over two years ago. Being home after such a long time made me realize the strong support I had in Bangladesh all along. Life is very comfortable in Bangladesh. I hardly have to work for myself. There's a person for almost everything I need to get done. I get whatever I want, whenever I want. Some would call that being spoiled, but I would call that being fortunate. The weather is also more bearable. 35 degrees won't kill you, but -35 degrees will kill you and then bury you in snow. It's a hard life I live in Canada. While striving on my own to build my future is mentally rewarding, it is also tiring, due to the harsh weather and the fact that I have no family support there. From a career-based perspective, Canada is a great place; from a social perspective, Bangladesh is better. And that leaves me confused about where to settle. Nevertheless, I was glad to be back home. Two years had hardly changed my mom and dad, but my brother, who was now 11, had changed a lot. It was expected.

Shocking results

Although I was enjoying the comfort back home, my worries about my academic performance was bothering me every now and then. I was waiting anxiously for my grades to be released - which wasn't until one week into my stay in Bangladesh. When the time had finally arrived, I didn't bother crossing my fingers before checking my grades. I knew I would fail. I was just wondering by how much I would fail. Not that it would make a difference. I was thinking of a speech I would deliver to my parents explaining the reason for my failure and my plans to pull myself back up. In my head, I rehearsed the speech several times before I finally clicked on a link on my browser that read "View My Grades". A page loaded on the screen, which left me in shock. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. To pass a couse, I needed a 50%. However, to obtain a promotion, I needed an average mark of 60%. On my five courses, I had obtained 61, 66, 74, 77, and 79. I don't know how but I wasn't even close to failing. Maybe I just tend to underestimate myself. But that didn't matter. I had passed! At that moment I felt like I had just dropped the heaviest burden that I had ever carried. It was the most liberating feeling! I rushed the good news to my parents. Needless to say, they were very pleased with me.

Department of Homeland Security

With all my worries behind me, I was now focused on a brighter future. I was scheduled to begin working for Bloomberg in NYC on the 19th of January 2009. I worked hard to get the job. I studied day and night to prepare for my interview with them. And it paid off. They liked me, I got an offer. That would be the end for most people but for me it was only the beginning. Since I wasn't a Canadian citizen, working in the USA wouldn't be as simple as 1-2-3. I needed to obtain a US visa. I gathered the countless documents and filled in the countless forms for the US visa application. I handed in my application on the 2nd of December, 2008. For some reason, maybe because I have a "Mohammed" in my name, they didn't approve my visa right away. Instead, they sent my file for an "administrative review". I really do not know what that means, but if I had to guess, they probably were trying to make sure I wasn't a terrorist. So I waited for this "administrative review" to complete. One would imagine that the US Department of Homeland Security would be able to do a background check on an innocent 22-year-old with no past criminal records in about a month and a half. But the 19th of January, 2009 had arrived and I was yet to hear back from them. I was back in Canada, and without a job.

Global economic crisis

As part of my undergradaute degree, it was crucial that I found a job for the winter. And I needed to find it quickly. So I tried to return to my previous employers. But due to the global economic crisis, they were all on a hiring freeze. I realized only then how stressful it was to be unemployed. And that was just the stress of an unemployed student. I can only imagine how stresful it would be for people supporting a family to get laid off. Hopeless, and desperate for a job, I headed to Waterloo - the only place in Canada I dare to call "home". I looked for jobs there, but most of my searching was in vain. All the companies seemed to be doing poorly. No one was hiring. And the few jobs remaining out there wouldn't be worth my time. I'd rather pour coffee. I was really disappointed and for the first time, I felt affected by the global economic crisis. Was it a mistake after all to come and pursue and education in the west?

Dream job

It was the 22nd of January, 2009 and I was still without a job. Desperate and depressed, I went to visit a professor for whom I had done some work in the past. On hearing my unfortunate story regarding the US visa, he sympathized and offered me a job on the spot. It was a great opportunity. I would continue working on an online course critique system that I had built for him in the past. Although the job didn't pay as well, it had a huge benefit - there was no office that I would have to come into. I could work from anywhere. Considering the fact that it was -25 degrees outside when he made me the job offer, my mind reached a decision almost immediately - I would fly back to Bangladesh and work from there. Everything had changed after that moment. I was employed again. I would be satisfying the requirements for my undergradaute degree. And I would be escaping the brutal Canadian winter. It was a perfect plan. Filled with joy and excitement, I headed back to Montreal where I would stay with my uncle and aunt until my flight back to Bangladesh, which will be on the 2nd of February, 2009. In the mean time, with nothing better to do here in Montreal, I decided to update my website with this post.