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I fell in love with her at first sight. It happened at one of the Erasmus events last year. She had dark-brown glasses, which perfectly matched her long and thin face. The glasses made her look maturely elegant.
When I got acquainted with her, I asked “Do you use facebook?”. She kindly gave her facebook name to me. When I opened her profile, on the cover photo she was standing hand-in-hand with a handsome tall guy. So I thought: “she has a life-partner”.
Since then I totally removed her from my head. I forced myself to forget her. But one day…
One day I was standing at a bus stop, waiting for bus number 107, listening to a podcast about “creative business” in my headphones. Somebody came up to me from the back, and gave me a pleasant touch on my elbow with her soft hand. I turned around. It was her. It was she and her elegant round glasses.
“Hi!” she said, smiling.
“Hello!” I responded [I didn’t expect her to approach me that way]. “How are you doing?”
“Pretty well, thanks,” she smiled.
As we were waiting for our bus to arrive, we went on chatting. It would be awkward to stand there in silence.
“I had an exam today,” I started talking about general things to be polite, and kept ‘distance’ between us. “The exam wasn’t that hard, but I didn’t prepare for it properly. How are your classes going?”
She was looking at me with unnaturally wide-opened eyes and her head was bent down a little — the way a little child looks at you when she wants to get a lollipop, you know what I mean?
Then she suddenly said with a quiet and seductive voice “You are so tall…”, looking up at me.
I thought, “what’s going on right now?”.
In my country it is inappropriate to make “nice and seductive” compliments to opposite gender [especially if you already have a boyfriend or girlfriend]. So I felt a little weird and, as though I didn’t hear anything, I went on with my boring “talk” about university lessons.
When the bus arrived and we were about to get on it, she [all of a sudden] whispered “I’m so cold…” and grabbed my hand!
I flinched. But pretended that I didn’t [because cool guys don’t flinch when girls touch them, right?]. Instead, I took this move of hers as a joke and slowly pulled my hand away, smiling.
Later that day, I thought that I had to talk about this with somebody.
I ran across a person on the street in the evening, who happened to be my friend and luckily that girl’s friend too [a mutual friend, in other words], I told her “I need your advice.”
“Yeah, sure, what happened?” she said.
“Take a look,” I said, showing on my phone some of the text messages that the girl with glasses had written to me earlier that day.
“Did she write these to you?” she asked.
“Yes, she did. Maybe I don’t understand the Western lifestyle, maybe I don’t understand women in general, but…”
“What exactly do you not understand?”
“Did she break with her boyfriend?” I asked.
“No. She is still living with him.”
“THEN WHY IS SHE BAHAVING THIS WAY???”
“Abdu, you are so naive… You don’t get the hints.” she made a pause for a couple of seconds and then said, “She knows that you like her.”
“She wants to date with you. Don’t you get it? She wants to experience something different. Because you are a complete opposite of her current boyfriend: he is harsh and you are a soft person.”
“Wait… She wants to have two boyfriends at the same time?”
After all of this happened to me, I came back to my room. Lay onto my bed, without taking off my shoes. I looked at the white ceiling of my small dormitory room, and visualized the girl with glasses in my imagination. Her smiling face was flying above me. I looked into her charming blue eyes and told her in my mother tongue: “Sandaka xotindan Xudoni o’zi asrasin.” [“Let God protect me from such wife as you.”]
That is one of those moments when I feel proud to be Uzbek. Even though some Uzbek girls wear impossibly revealing outfit, use filthy words in their speeches, and smoke, they [at least educated ones] always stay loyal to their life-partners. Disloyalty is kind of unacceptable in my community.
Let’s say, hypothetically, I’ll start dating that beautiful girl. We will date for a long time [whatever “long” means to you]. What, she might want a “change” when she is bored with me? Then she’ll want to “experience something different” [not-so-soft boyfriend, for example]? Then she will find a not-so-harsh-not-so-soft boyfriend, without even letting me know about that? Is it the potential risks that I need to take? I have to say: this is kind of terrible and it’s not how it works. I have a different understanding of a serious relationship.
That being said, I am grateful to life that it has shown to me people with such mentality [so that I am careful the next time]. I pray to God to protect me from a disloyal girlfriend [especially from girlfriends with dark-brown glasses].
Always stay loyal to your life-partners!
I entered a Starbucks coffeeshop. Almost all the tables were busy, except a round two-person table at the corner of the hall.
As I was taking off my jacket to hang it on the back of the chair, I noticed a girl sitting at the table just behind me. Without blinking she was looking at the screen of her MacBook Air [“what a nice laptop,” I thought. “If I make enough money this summer, I will get one for myself”]. Her hair was brownish and curly, her glasses were black-framed, and her neck was long and thin. Her dress was dark green with white flower patterns on it.
I sat with my back to her. Put my tablet in front of me, opened magoosh.com in Google Chrome, and started solving GMAT problems.
After a while, when I was busy watching lessons on my device, I heard somebody mention with a clear American accent ‘Uzbekistan’: “…we have one guy from Uzbekistan and…” It was that girl, talking on the phone with somebody.
Although I got really curious [because not very often I meet the Western people who talk about my country], I didn’t turn around or ask anything from her. “It would be rude of me to do so,” I figured.
After around half an hour I looked at my watch and realized that it was time for me to go. I stood up quietly, put my devices and papers into my bag, and when I turned around to take my jacket from the chair… our eyes met. For a split second. Yet the eyes met. “This is the perfect time,” I thought.
She was focused on her laptop. “Excuse me,” I said to her, smiling. She had her headphones on, so she didn’t hear me. “Excuuuse me,” I said again, bending in order to catch her attention. She looked up at me. Took her headphones off. And said “I’m sorry?” with wide-opened surprised eyes.
“Can I ask you something?” I said, playfully.
“Yeah, sure,” she said, smiling.
“Where do you come from?”
“I come from…” she stopped for a couple of moments, looking down, as if pondering about something. “I’m half American, half Bulgarian,” she finally said, hesitating.
Then, she looked down again, thought about something and added [as if making an excuse]: “My mother is American, and my father is Bulgarian.”
Usually people don’t think long when you ask them where they come from. It is a simple question that doesn’t require pondering. Yet the curly-haired girl was hesitant.
[to be continued]
I paid $250 to take the test. “Please, follow me,” said a red-haired Czech woman walking towards a room on the right side of the corridor. We entered the room. There were five desks with a computer on each of them.
I walked to the end of the room and asked “Can I sit here?”, pointing at the yellow computer chair. I figured that nobody will disturb me there. “Of course,” said the red-haired lady [she was impossibly polite].
I sat on the comfortable computer chair. The screen was right in front of me. With a few clicks I started the test [which was going to finish only after four hours]. “I’ve prepared for this day for the past six months,” I thought to myself. “I gotta do my best.”
The test was divided into four parts. The first part was my favourite: Analytical Writing. The next 30 minutes I wrote an essay, criticizing the statement given to me by GMAT test-makers.
Right after the essay, the next GMAT section started – “Integrated Reasoning” [12 problems to solve]. Then the next section – “Math” [37 problems]. Then the next one – “Critical Thinking” [41 problems].
When 20 minutes left until the end of the examination, all of a sudden I felt that I needed to pee… badly… [it happens when I am stressed] But I could not leave the test room, because had I done so, I would lose 4-5 minutes from the test, in which every second is precious.
I finished the test. When I saw my results, I forgot that I needed to go to bathroom. I looked at my score depicted on the screen for a few moments and did not know what to think. Although I had already known that my score will be around 600 this year, and there was no surprise that I got 580, for some reason I felt bad.
I scored enough to get admission to the best business school in Germany [ranked 8 in the world, according to Financial Times]. However, this result is not sufficient for Cambridge. My target is not the best school of Germany; it is the best school of the world [what an audacity, you might think]. Therefore, next year I am going to prepare and take GMAT once more. If I don’t get enough score even in 2018, I will prepare and take the test again in 2019. What will I do if I fail it again in 2019? I will study even more and take the test again in 2020.
“Cambridge is almost impossible to get admission to. Don’t waste your time,” one guy told me once. He was right. It is the hardest challenge I’ve ever had in my life. Knowing that, I accepted this challenge. Nobody claimed that preparations to the best uni of the Earth was going to be easy.
The recipe for mediocrity is simple: “Do what everybody else does.” If you want extraordinary results you should take extraordinary steps.
The lecture room was half-full with students. I was sitting as usual in the second row, next to my Ukrainian friend.
“Excuse me, can I ask?” I said, raising my hand in the middle of the lecture. Before this I had already asked two other questions.
“You want to ask again what Alpha is?” he said, mocking at me. His sarcasm was a success indeed. The class gave a sound of a laughter and you could tell from the lecturer’s smiling face that he was quite satisfied by his joke. It felt like everybody in the lecture hall had a great moment. Except me. I felt stupid.
In fact, the lecturer was really knowledgeable. He talked slowly, articulating each word clearly, making sure that everybody follows him. His voice was moderate – not very loud and not very low – which shows that he felt quite confident. The teacher is perfect, except this one thing, which compelled me to hate him today.
What do you usually do when you don’t understand something at lecture? I started appreciating my teachers at my previous uni [I studied at London school, which has a campus in Tashkent, Uzbekistan]. There, one day when I raised my hand and said “Sorry for a stupid question”, my programming teacher immediately interrupted me and said: “There is no such thing as a stupid question.” Since then I’ve sincerely believed that no question is dumb. Perhaps that’s why it’s become a part of my personality: when I don’t understand something I don’t hesitate to ASK.
Anyway… After the class had stopped laughing and the teacher had told me “what Alpha is”, I lost all the interest in studying that subject. Until the end of the lecture, it felt like a shaytan was sitting on my left shoulder and whispering into my ear: “Abdu, f**k this subject! Why in the world does a programmer need Statistics? Go out, have a walk, listen to Ed Sheeran, and forget about this teacher, who looks like a bad version of Jason Statham.” Filthy thoughts were boiling in my head.
My shaytan stopped only when the lecture finished. My ego was a little bit woken up, but I’m good. I’m good now. After all, I have a test on Statistics next Monday and I should prepare for it properly. I naively hope that after I pass this subject, I will never have to deal with such teachers again.
Oh, before I forget, can anybody recommend me a good movie with Jason Statham to watch this weekend?
The lecturer was mumbling something standing before his audience of IT students. There were plenty of empty seats in the room, because as some of my groupmates say “There are so many cool websites that can teach you programming. You don’t have to listen to this boring lecture.”
I was the one who was listening to this boring lecture. At some point I lost an interest to what the pedagogue was talking about, and my hand routinely went into the left pocket of my jeans and I fished out my phone, thinking “Let me just check my phone for a second.” [for a second. Of course.] I had a new message on Messanger.
It read: “During my first year at uni few people knew me, because I was such a nerd 😀 😀 :D.”
“I’m still a nerd,” I texted back to her, putting a winking emoji at the end of the line.
“I have a theory,” she texted. “There are two types of nerds.”
“What types?” I asked, being curious.
“A SUPER nerd and a LIGHT nerd,” she said. “For example, I used to be a super nerd. But then I figured that social life is important too.”
“What do you mean by ‘a light nerd’,” I asked her, even though I already deciphered what she implied by that term. Perhaps I did so because I simply wanted to let her express herself to the end.
“Super nerds,” she carried on. “Are those students who only study and do nothing else. They kind of live in their own worlds. You know what I mean?”
“Yeah, I know such people.”
“And light nerds are the ones who study hard and, at the same time, find time to engage in social life,” she said, adding at the end: “Networking is also important.”
Her last phrase made me thinking. I didn’t really have a firm opinion on that matter. But I figured that she was right to a certain extent. So I merely texted: “I agree”.
“Now I’m running a psychology club at uni,” she said.
“Psychology club? Wow,” I said. I was indeed amazed by that. Not everybody has the self-confidence to organize things of that sort. Last year, when I wanted to create a “Programmers club” at the Czech University [where I’m currently studying], I didn’t pull it off. Why? There are so many reasons: it was too time-consuming, it was hard to organize study rooms on a regular basis, PR issues. However, all of them are arguably simply excuses. The most honest reason is: I was not persistent enough.
Can a nerd run a university club? It depends on how you define the word “a nerd”. Is it somebody who spends 10 hours a day sitting before his/her computer reading something, rarely talking to anybody? [I’ve never seen such people, though]. They certainly cannot run the club, because they lack the social skills required for it.
So, who is a nerd? To me, a nerd is anyone who is obsessed with their job, be it drawing, engineering, programming, or communicating with customers; anyone who can spend hours and hours doing their “thing” without being bored. I suppose, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a nerd. Otherwise, how did he become so successful in sports, filming industry, and also in politics? The only explanation is that he is the ultimate nerd of his job, just like Steve Jobs.
Speaking of Mr Jobs, when he was alive he said: “A sane person will be so bored of doing the same thing over and over again, that he will give up after the first 1,000 hours. The only way for you to become an expert of your job is to fall in love with it and practice it for 10,000 hours.” I heard him saying this during one of the interviews.
When my day-dreaming was on this “hottest” point, the teacher said “That’s it for today!” and finished the lecture. I missed the whole lecture. But I didn’t regret it, because I learnt something new instead: There are two types of nerds. Super nerds. And light nerds. But which one is Arnold Schwarzenegger?
According to The Economist magazine, only some 5% of students at Harvard Business School come from poor families.
Studying at renowned business schools isn’t a cheap adventure. You will need to have $50,000 in your pocket if you want to study at Cambridge, for example. For Harvard – $60,000. That being said, those schools provide scholarships for not-well-off applicants [like you and me], who otherwise would struggle to pay the tuition fees.
One of the first requirements to get admission to Cambridge or HBS, as well as to win a scholarship, is to achieve a decent score on GMAT.
When my friends ask me what the heck GMAT is, I ask them in response “Have you ever heard of such thing as Google?” Jokes aside, it stands for Graduate Management Admission Test [sounds fancy, huh?] That’d be a short explanation. The longer one would be: it is a test designed for those who are willing to study MBA or at a Masters program related to Business/Management. Nowadays almost all reputable business schools require a good GMAT score to be simply considered for their programs. They say it is one of the hardest tests ever.
I solved GMAT problems until 1 a.m. yesterday. After I woke up in the morning and brushed my teeth, I started solving GMAT problems again. Today I have a meeting in the afternoon. Do you know what I will be doing before and after the meeting? You’re absolutely right. I’ll be solving GMAT problems. Why am I investing so much time in it? Because it’s the only way for me to work my way to Cambridge.
Last month I was honored to talk to an Uzbek who studied there in 2009. Also, I’ve heard of several Uzbeks who happened to study at Harvard. Each of them, though, was self-financed. The ones who studied at Harvard took a student loan to pay their tuition fees [to do that you need to be an American citizen or at least a Green Card holder]. The one who studied at Cambridge was financially supported by her family. Incidentally, the daughter of the former President of Uzbekistan studied at Harvard too. I wonder, where did SHE take this whopping amount of money?
When I told one of my family members that I dream to study at Cambridge for my Masters and I’ll be applying to it next year, he said: “I’d recommend you to apply to other graduate schools as well, just in case if Cambridge doesn’t accept you. Also, where are you going to get money to pay the tuitions?” To be honest with you, I expected a little bit more encouraging response from one of my closest people.
Thank God, I have a roommate who supports me and by no means criticizes me when I sound silly; who says “Just do it!” when I tell him about my dreams of Cambridge.
I am unfazed by the problem of paying the tuition fees, because I’ve found at least 10 full-scholarships for those international students who get admission to Cambridge. Also, there are certain ways to take a student loan [without being a citizen or Green Card holder]; or I could find a way to earn that money on my own before starting the Masters program. Where there is a will, there is a way, right?
The only issue that I am REALLY concerned about is the crazy competition to be admitted to Cambridge [even Brexit and Mr Trump are secondary issues]. Thousands of the brightest students who come from the UK, America, China, India, Russia, the Middle East, the Far East, and all over the world will be applying to the program that I am interested in. That program accepts only 40 students. Only 40 students. I will do my best to be among those “Fantastic Fourty” in 2019. I should JUST DO IT! Oh, speaking of “doing”… I have to go back to my GMAT problems. I’ll see you next time! 🙂
“I have started reading a new book yesterday,” she said, when three of us were walking towards a restaurant in downtown.
“What book?” I asked.
“It’s called ‘How to make a good impression on men’. The book starts with a story of…”
“You don’t need a book for that!” the English gentleman that was walking with us exclaimed with elegant British accent. “You are a beautiful, smart, and modest woman. You don’t need to read a BOOK to learn how to make an impression on us!”
The gentleman said this with quite a positive tone. He was smiling and even laughing at some point. He went out of his way to persuade the lady. To support her. To raise her self-esteem.
“But I don’t have a boyfriend…,” the 26-year-old said, almost whispering, looking down. I could feel that her heart rate swiftly increased. She suddenly started breathing more quickly and deeply.
“Oh, dear… Don’t you even worry about that. You are young…”
“You know, my ex-boyfriend…,” the lady interrupted the gentleman. “He is not single any more. He’s living with his girlfriend now.” To my surprise, fresh tears squeezed between her lids. “So, I’ve started thinking: perhaps the problem is in me.” She gave us an unconvincing smile, barely showing her teeth just under her glasses, but her eyes betrayed her. She was not feeling happy at all.
We arrived at the restaurant. Sat around a table. The British ordered a glass of beer. The American lady ordered some coke, justifying her choice of drink by saying “I allow myself alcohol only on weekends.” I ordered coke as well, simultaneously thinking how to justify my “non-alcoholic life”. In the Czech Republic you are traditionally supposed to make a valid excuse if you decide not to drink when you go out in the evening.
“I got divorced with my wife after four years of marriage,” the gentleman held the lady’s left hand with his right hand on the table and continued defusing the tension that the lady was experiencing. I’d say he was around 50 years old, but he looked much younger than his age. Maybe because he was energetic and positive all the time.
“Then I got acquainted with another wonderful woman. Do you know when it happened? 10 years after my divorce with my ex-wife. 10 years. You never know when you will find that right person. Besides, life is not only about relationships. You should enjoy other spheres of your life too.”
The lady nodded at each point he was making, sometimes looking into his eyes, sometimes looking down, and again at him. She seemed to feel rather uncomfortable because all the attention was solely on her. She didn’t want to be felt bad about. She didn’t want to be looked at, like one would look at a broken girl. “Let’s change the subject!” she finally said. “Let’s talk about you, guys,” she wanted to be polite and smiled at us.
Then the waiter came up to our table and distributed the ordered drinks. We changed the subject. After a while we changed it once again. And again. And again until I noticed that it was late and realized I had to go.
Am I the only one who doesn’t understand women? One of my cousins, before she got married, had constantly been depressed because “no decent man was making a proposal” to her. Because she was part of my family I inadvertently felt depressed just like she did. “You are smart, pretty, and modest girl. Just stay this way and you’ll be fine,” I would tell her, being frustrated. “Thinking about marriage all the time isn’t going to help you find a husband. Actually, you don’t even have to find him. He will find you. Just relax! You won’t die alone, I promise!”
She got married a year after that talk. Currently she is expecting a baby. Why do some women assume that if they don’t find a husband until the age of 23-24, they will never be able to find one in the future?
Perhaps I am still too young to understand those relationship issues now. Maybe one day you will find me in a library searching for the book “How to make an impression on women” [googling, rather]. As for now, however, please tell me where I can find the book “How to make an impression on my Math teacher at uni.”
I heard someone playing the guitar when I was fiddling on Youtube in my room at the dormitory. The music was quite close to hard rock to my ear. I know only one student on our floor who can play the guitar. So I thought “That must be Sheikh” [Sheikh is his name]. I don’t have any problems with him playing music so loudly, because I have my solution for those kind of neighbors: headphones! [I know. I am so innovative].
After several days I met him just outside the campus. I guess he was going to a shop. It was dark outside.
“Hi, Sheikh,” I said.
“Hello,” he said shaking my hand.
“How are you?”
“How are things with your music band going? I sometimes hear you rock-and-rolling in your room,” I said messing with him.
“Really?!” he seemed to feel bad for disturbing his neighbors.
“Yeah,” I smiled.
“What is your room number?” he asked.
He turned his eyes to the side thinking how far my room was from his room.
“It is on the other side of the corridor,” I said messing with him again.
He looked into my eyes, put his palm on his forhead, and said smiling: “Oh, sh*t! Sorry, man!”
I told him that it was okay and no harm was done.
“I understand that you don’t have any other place to practice your instrument,” I said in order to defuse the tension.
He kept silence and just nodded.
“Do you enjoy playing music?” I asked.
“Yes, I do,” he said with a big smile. I noticed how his face shined when he said that. He really meant it.
“Would you agree to play the guitar even for free?” I asked.
He laughed at my question and said “I am already playing it for free at bars. Well, they pay me sometimes, but I am not doing it for money. I just enjoy it.”
I admire such people. The people who pursue their passion no matter what criticism society has prepared for them. No matter whether they are paid or not paid for what they do, they never abandon their passions.
For almost all of our lives our governments have dictated to us what subjects we have to learn at school; our families have told us what uni we have to attend; our parents have told us their expectations of how much money we have to earn to make them happy; and our uncles have decided where we have to work in order to make that money. Or did you have a different experience? If so, then you must have grown up somewhere close to La La Land and I’m envious of you.
The reason why Bill Gates spent years to learn how to program in a computer lab of his school [according to his own words] was not because his government told him to do so. The reason why Cristiano Ronaldo spent his entire childhood kicking a ball was not because he wanted to make money out of it [at least in his childhood]. Both of them simply enjoyed doing what they do. Now you can find their names in the list of the richest people on the planet.
Interestingly, another commonality between those two incredible personalities is that both Bill and Cristiano are known for being huge philanthropists. Why do you think they are able to give away their fortunes to the poor so easily? I guess that’s because their goals were not to make fortunes in the first place. Their goals were simply to program and to kick a ball. Money simply followed.
A popular saying in my country goes: “Don’t run after money. Let money run after you!” When choosing a career path, consider all the passions you have. Pick the one that is currently most demanded. Go deep into this sphere. Master your passion. And perhaps one day your name will appear in that fancy list, right next to Bill Gates and Leonel Messi [or Cristiano Ronaldo, whoever you prefer ;)].
This week I met an American business leader. He is a Harvard graduate and the President of a huge international company. As a part of the American leadership program, to which I was accepted some 5 months ago, I and dozens of other student participants received a two-days coaching session from this incredible man.