Here is a story about my personal experience of the first ever interview and the very first international travel of my life. Hi, my name is Jamal and that time I was 23 and now I am 24 just finished with my final exams of Bachelor degree in IT. I hail from New Delhi, India, a student of Uttar Pradesh Technical University (United College of Engineering & Research) located in Greater Noida. I was invited by J.P. Morgan during my college third year for an interview of summer internship for the post of Technology Summer Intern.
How do you feel if you get to travel the countries which you have been dreaming for a decade, you get to see the people you have been watching on television, how it feels to lose all your documents like passports, IDs, cash abroad, how it feels to depart from the good people you met on your way, how it feels to get into a trouble and receive a good help, how it feels to feel the fear of losing your good memories? Through this story, I am going to present my encounters, stupid and un-stupid ones both. Some people choose Western culture and some choose Eastern culture as their favorite one. I chose the West say when I was in my teenage or say childhood.
I was influenced by the western culture, the feeling of being independent and doing what you want. I wanted to see people from different countries, wanted to get answers to some stupid questions like “are they like us?”, “what sets us apart?”, “do they eat the same food like us?” I wanted to see mountains, lakes, people, culture, roads, skies, airplanes, airports, taxis, big companies, professionals in suits, big cars, big infrastructures and always wanted to have a feeling like an international. This goes back in 2013. I was a third year student and that time going abroad to me seemed like a necessity which kept on interjecting me everyday or better say every hour.
So just to rewind the time a bit, I spent my first year of the college in an adjustment- suiting myself to strict college rules, some irrelevant subjects, second year as a volunteer in sustainability fellowship by Nokia in my city and then in third year I got a feeling that now it’s enough and I should finally go abroad. I started looking for an international internship in 2013 for Summer 2014 and applied to a number of places worldwide as a Software/Web Developer/IT Intern and J.P. Morgan was one of them.
I used to grab a cup of coffee and listen to Trance music by AVB (Armin Van Buuren) whether it’s day or night and applied in mass numbers. I did not hear a single reply from anyone for some weeks. I was on a job board website as always and there was an internship listing on Technical Intern at J.P. Morgan in Glasgow. Trust me I had never heard of ‘J.P. Morgan’ and ‘Glasgow’ word before that and they were completely new to me and after knowing that they are still the one of the largest or the largest bankers in the world, I was completely shocked. I did some thorough research for them before moving on the application part. Till now, I had a feeling I won’t get any reply. I felt excited but depressed at the same time because of previous intern application failures. I decided to give it a try and their red backgrounded homepage opens and they asked me general applicant details and performed a screening interview. It was in two rounds: subjective questions and quantitative questions. The former had around 6-8 long questions asking about technologies, which one do you like and why and similar. The latter had 10 mathematical questions mostly graph and numbers based in which you have to calculate values, percentage etc. I gave all the answers naturally in real time and what ever keeps on coming in my mind, I just kept on writing and that’s all. I barely answered 6 correct answers out of 10 in the mathematical questions. At last, the page showed that I have submitted the application successful and wait for some time to get it reviewed. Till this moment, I was quite sure about my expectations that this was not going to get my anywhere.
After two weeks, I received a very formal, simple and easy email saying that I have passed the screening test and need to schedule the next interview in person rounds in Glasgow, Scotland, The UK. Scotland was the country which I had dreamt and had related it to bagpipers. Since, I was in my school band as a drummer the fun to visit Scotland was even more interesting. This was going to be the very first interview of my life and yes, also the first travel. I was like OMG!! Yes, it was one of the best feelings I ever got. I felt like now I work for them now 😀 The way they threw me an email seemed like it did not mean anything for J.P. Morgan but for me it was the starting of a new world. The thing which made it more good was that the company was ready to pay for my expenses. I told my family about this and they were really happy. The company also allotted me a coordinator named Jemma Langham. Since this was going to be my first international travel, I seriously did n’t knew anything and Jemma helped me in a lot of ways. She helped me in sending the official invitation for visa, re-scheduling the interview dates and information about the internship. I asked about hundreds of questions from her but she always replied them on time and with respect. If you are reading this Jemma, then it’s really a good opportunity for me to thank you specially here on LinkedIn. I started looking for the visa process. VFS Global handles all the application and they have ties with various embassies, diplomats and immigration officials all over the world. I submitted my educational certificates, invitation and ID proofs with financial statement at their UK Visa office in Nehru Place, Delhi. Finally, in a month I got my visa. It costed me around 10,000 INR (~180 USD). This was going to be the first visa sticker on my one year old passport. Trust me, the UK visa looks really good and you can always boast of it.
For interviews, it is good to have a Business Visitor Type Visa for the UK and funds in your bank/cash-foreign exchange at least 50 pounds per day. So now I was eligible to enter ‘The United Kingdom Of Great Britain & Northern Ireland’. This giant company was ready to reimburse the travel as far as the cost does not exceed 400GBP(Great Britain Pounds) but my travel costs were exceeding so I asked them to book the tickets myself and then get the reimbursement refunded back afterwards which they agreed. I asked my brother Arshad to book the tickets. The tickets costed 56,000 INR (~560GBP). My father who is a physician medical doctor by profession arranged 50,000 INR for me before leaving for an Islamic Pilgrimage and I used this money for hotel booking, shuttle reservation, a short tour, everyday expenses. So now, I was having the visa, the tickets, and sufficient funds enough to enter the UK.
Now, I was to finish my 5th semester exams. My excitement went on increasing. I was researching the company, some basic interview questions. Not to mention I was also researching the places to visit for cheap. At the moment for the interview preparation, I was being natural. What it means? It means that I was not trying to feed something in my mind which I did not agree or something which was already there on the internet. I believed in truth and naturalness. My logic says you can always create an artificial mindset in your brain, but as the time will keep on moving, it will wash away. For a long run, it’s good to have a natural mind because I will take you very far and make you successful. I was aware of the consequences, that appearing without rigid preparation it might be useless to go there but it’s better to lose instead of falling into something which you might regret in future. Well, back from serious stuff now, while doing some search on the internet about the country, I came to know about TimberBush tours which departs from Glasgow and ends in Inverness (top north part in Scotland). I booked it for 80 pounds which was a good deal. Travel date was arriving and I could feel that while giving my exams and practicals. The news about me was spreading to relatives and in my family and why not going abroad is still a big deal in India. If not every then most of the parents feel proud when seeing their children going abroad. Time kept on moving and I realised that now it’s time to pack the luggage. I found an old formal suit of my brother in the almirah, got a tie from my father (on the advice of my elder brother who paid the tickets), got some winter clothes, and that’s all. I also packed some ready-made indian food. Before a day of arrival, I had a look at all my documentation and then slept for a few hours. My room at that time was not like a usual boy’s room. Guess what? You probably know the answer.
The Departure Day
So it was morning time say about 9AM, I was ready and my brother and my mom were ready to drop me off to the Indira Gandhi International Airport which is around 25 kilometers from our sweet home. I threw my luggage into our small car. Not exactly threw but put it safely! During the way I talked to my relatives upon the request of my mother. Everything was going good unless we stuck into some traffic jam on the Ring road and I was thinking what would happen if I would miss my flight. In some time, the traffic problem got solved and we reached the airport on time. They wished me good luck and my mom started shedding tears which is natural for indian mothers to do so. I said bye to my brother and mom. Now, this was the time to depart as this was the time I was going that too far, for the first time I packed my clothes, for the first time I was ready to travel upon my dreams. I showed my passport and the tickets to the security officer at the airport entrance and then upon entrance then started searching for my airlines counter, British Airways. I knew everything on theoretical basis by exploring Google and the airport website but doing it practically seemed difficult at that time.
I found my air lines and figured out the queue in which I had to land: economy and business. Of course the former one. There was an slim girl near the queue who was disturbing tags for hand bags. I took one of it and started writing my name on it unless I met a guy near the queue who was going to Boston and told me it’s real purpose. He asked me where I was going. I told him “In the UK for an interview”. He asked “which company?”. I said “Google says it’s a big company”. He replied “Okay. Google!”. I said “No, J.P. Morgan”. He amused and said “definitely it’s very big”. I also asked him to how all this airport process goes and he gave me an idea. The lady at the desk was a beautiful indian wearing something black, may be the official dress for British Airways in India. I was thinking that the process will go smoothly but it did not. She took my passport and started staring at the photo. I just thought in my mind “Am I in the No-Fly-List” or what? She said that my photo on the passport was blurry due to some lines. (Yes, my photo on the passport was not perfectly printed as it was having some lines printed, and this was normal). She took it to her team mates/co-workers and started discussing (actually whispering) something related to it. She asked for some documents like the invitation and the hotel booking which I showed. After some conversations with nervousness, she finally asked to proceed further. I submitted my luggage with some nervousness and got my boarding pass. After that, I filled the immigration form and moved to immigration checkpoint. After waiting in the queue form some minutes, I finally got the opportunity to face the immigration officer. I wished him Good Morning. He was wearing glasses, looked short and fat and wore a black suit with a tie. Ask a 10 year boy and he will say he looked like a real diplomat. I was in fear that what questions the officer may ask. He was really happy with me . Here is the conversation we had in Hindi. (Translation in English side by side)
Officer while smiling: Kidhar ja rahe ho? (English: Where are you going?)
Me: UK, interview hai sir J.P. Morgan mein. (English “UK, Sir, I have an interview at J.P. Morgan.)
Officer: are yahan kaise ho gya. (English: How did you get this opportunity?)
Me: Sir online apply kiya aur first round clear ho gya. (English: Sir, I applied online and cleared the first round).
Officer: Kis university se ho aur kya kiya hai? (English: From which university you are and what course have you done?)
The moment I was about to reply that I was from Uttar Pradesh Technical University or UPTU, he told himself the answer. Yes, these officers know everything about you. I was more interested in knowing what software he was running on his computer. He got more happy and stamped my passport. I relaxed. I proceeded to the security check which also worked fine. I did not knew what to keep with me and what to deposit in the tray for x-ray scanning machine. So, I asked the security for that. After clearing this check, I was able to see the line up of reputed brands which I had seen only on televisions and movies. You name any alcohol, fashion, watch, high end brands and it was there. Surely these fashion brands are for those who have those who are stable in life not for a student like me. So what, I decided to move on. I followed the sign boards and proceeded towards my gate and waited until they announced for the boarding to begin. The very minor details I don’t remember as of now because i am writing this on June 5, 2015 which is almost after one and a half years. It was a bright day and I was able to see my air plane through the glass window which was parked (yes, parked :D) just outside the terminal. It was a Boeing 747 having four engines. I knew about these planes a little bit because I liked watching Air Crash Investigation on National Geographic Channel. I still remember the male voice they used in their series which was thrilling.
It was very big as you see. The announcement started. I proceeded towards the queue and the crew checked my passport, scanned the boarding pass, kept one part of it with themselves and returned the other one to me. Then we started entering the plane through a tunnel (I still don’t know what we call it :)).
In The Plane
If you have ever watched the advertisement of British Airways or Virgin Atlantic what you will expect at the first moment. I was expecting some beautiful air hostesses. Yes this is how they portray the airlines on media and internet. But no, in reality in my plane they were all old 🙁 Well, I got a warm and smiling welcome by one of them. I got my seat and started exploring things such as how the world looks from inside, the entertainment system, and the seat itself. General stuff started happening, the crew began to give the safety instructions. This was the first and the last time where I watched and listened to these safety guys like a high school class (#secret-confession). The crew sprayed some kind of medicine in the whole aircraft saying it’s for health related issues. Well, the take off started after the pilot greeted us. I was like “why there is lot of noise of the engines” and I can really feel that thrust on my seat. The four engines were revving up. After a few seconds, I could easily see the world going down.
After a few minutes, I felt relaxed as the engine noise started decreasing. No, actually my ears got temporarily blocked due to the cabin pressure or something else. I could feel a little pain but I tried sleeping and that worked.
I was one of the first few people to get the refreshments. This is because people who register themselves at the Airlines website account and select the food options, they are in the first priority, not to mention after the Business & First Class. I could feel the faces of all other people when the staff was handing over my food to me. They might be thinking why they are distributing to some random people. Now, it was the time to eat something. Well the 10 hour journey was very long, it was not disturbing but it was not either full of fun as I was not able to have some sleep when I wanted, unable to listen to entertainment system as the engine noise was too loud. This time I was imaging to have Bose Noise-Canceling headphones.
At the London Airport
Finally the plane landed in London at Heathrow International Airport.
I had a connecting flight from there to Glasgow which was of 1 hour duration. I really did not know how to change the terminal. I focused on the signs and a little advice from a shop keeper, I was able to take a fancy underground metro train. Finally I reached my terminal where I had to take a different flight. The airport has a good train system to get from one terminal to another and this is somewhat similar to our metro train in Delhi.
I went through the security check and this time it was not good. The metal detector beeped when I passed through it. This happens to a lot of people. Then what, the young officer came, asked me to remove my high heeled shoes and checked me in a good way, perhaps like cavity search. Well, he did n’t find anything suspicious, so he could n’t have stopped me further. This time the immigration officer well suited in black and looked like a real english man asked just one question “for how long, you are going to stay?” I replied “one week”. Passport stamped. Now I was officially in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland but still inside the airport. (I am not sure whether I took a security test first or the immigration)
The Passport Incident
The next thing was to find the boarding gate but before that I planned to withdraw some British currency from the ATM inside the airport. So, I used my brother’s debit card and withdrew 300 pounds to buy some souvenirs back for home for my niece, nephews and others. I also decided to get some more currency exchange but this time from a forex outlet near by the ATM. The man at the shop asked for my passport. I said “Here is my passport!”. Oh no ” Where is my passport?”. I was like shocked where all my documents were, then suddenly I remembered that I left them accidentally at the ATM. I rushed towards it and looked for my documents folder. It was not there. There were some old asians sitting on the bench near the machine, they told me that a police officer took some documents from here. I got confused because I did not knew who to report to as my flight was taking off in about half an hour. I knew about lost and found department but I was in doubt whether they might not have received it so fast or not. I tried asking the security officers near by, they all said no and re-directed me to someone else which got me into more confusion. On my way, I saw a male officer just as I used to see in hollywood. For just as a hope, I asked if he has something to say. He asked ” Is my name Anvar Jamal Saifi”. I said “Yes, sir.” He told me that he has returned my documents folder to my airlines counter at the boarding gate. Now I felt like breathing again. I went to the counter immediately where there were two disciplined persons one male and one female. I asked if they have something for me. They returned my folder with a smile. Now I felt like breathing again and again. I thanked them as they saved my life and yes, they really did. If I would have n’t found my docs, I am sorry to say I was like name-less or an un-proved person at least officially in a foreign country. Now it was the time to board the plane from London Heathrow Airport (LHR) to Glasgow International Airport (GLA).
From London to Glasgow
The journey was going to be about for an hour which really went good.The seat next to me was empty and I was wondering if I could meet someone to talk to.
It reached GLA in the late evening at about 9pm. The GLA airport impressed me, no crowd, no noise, just a few passengers, no harsh security checks. It gave me an impression that the city has a few people or there was an apocalypse here 😀 I went on to collect my luggage. I proceeded to the arrival side and in between found the people from my plane who were collecting their bags from the luggage belt. I thought my luggage will be at this same belt. After waiting for more than 15 minutes and revolving around the belt a few times, I said to myself where is my luggage? Suddenly my eyes, goes to the lost and found room. I said “no way, I don’t want this trouble!”. There were few other people including an old lady who had this same problem. A guy amongst us then said there is an another belt, let’s check out there. We proceeded to that different belt and say what our all the bags were moving lonely. I grabbed my luggage with a long sigh. I had already booked my shuttle form the airport to the city centre which costed less than 10 pounds to and fro. But the funny thing is that I really did n’t know that from where I was going to catch that bus, I mean where exactly from the airport. Thanks to a lady who helped me in showing the location of the bus. I took my old and rugged luggage and a back-pack and went towards the airport exit and I felt so managed that the bus was just in front of the gate. This was the first time I set my first foot outside the airport. The land of Glasgow-Scotland-United Kingdom welcomed me with good cold and a humid environment which I loved. I approached towards the bus, the gates opened and with a little effort I pushed my luggage into the bus. The bus driver asked my ticket and I handed over him the reservation print out. Further, I asked him “Hey, do you have any idea about this place Hill Head road?” He replied “Hull head”. I said no “Hill Head’. This was my first encounter with Scottish English which really did not worked fine. I assumed he did not know about this and moved forward. The bus was about empty as there was only a young a couple except me which looked liked bit asian or may be an Indian. I sat down and started looking outside there were broad roads, motor ways, and the fantastic view at late evening was even more good. I wished if the bus just kept on moving. Soon, we reached to the city-center George Square and the bus stopped at the red light.
The driver asked me that I can get a bus to Hill head from there. I was like I got a jackpot now. I took my luggage from the compartment and de-boarded. Now, I had to go to the other side of the road which was not an easy task, at least for me. I was coming from a country where there are traffic laws, but they are often moulded at night or even at day time. But my father always taught me to respect the laws of every country, So I did not try to run over the red light and waited it to go green. Otherwise in my country, red lights don’t stop you, you stop them. I could feel the cold but I did not had any choice except to find my hotel (Georgian House which I also pre-booked for a week- the cheapest one for about 180 pounds in total). I took pictures of the beautiful view of George Square and there is a municipal building above in the photo which looked good at night. I asked some people about Hill Head road and how to get there. I got mixed answers. I decided to take their advice and waited there of a bus. I saw a black women coming towards me and I asked her the same question. She did not really knew this exactly but she was sure that this bus will pass through that route. I felt lucky again. Now, a white women came and joined our conversation. Later, I came to know they were both friends. Now, I see the bus coming. I was feeling happy as they told me that they are going to take the same bus which will cross Hill Head. I felt confident.
The bus stopped and I was the last one to board as I wanted to see how the payment process goes. Again as before, I pushed my heavy luggage into the bus and gave a 50 or 100 pounds note to the bus driver. I though that was normal but this amount of money is very big to use in the bus. The driver asked me to pay in small currency. I felt hopeless but suddenly I remember that I had some loose change in my wallet given by Thomas Cook foreign exchange back from home. In the mean time, the black women she came to me from her seat and asked me if I need any help and she was willing to pay for my ticket. The ticket costed around 5 pounds, I took my seat and started scanning the roads for my hotel. I had a clue that there is a Scottish ATM/Bank in the same lane just before the hotel and that’s because I used Google Street View before my travel. These both the ladies were helping me in finding my hotel. It’s a shame that I did remember their names now. If I could contact them now by any means, I would say that they were really good persons and pure humans. Finally, I saw that bank and then I waited for the bus to get stopped. That time I did not knew that you could use Stop Button in buses. Well, the bus stops just in front a cafeteria or a small restaurant. I de-boarded and started looking for my hotel. I could listen to winds now.
Finally, found the hotel
I recognised the building from the hotel photo which looked old style I liked it. I started moving towards it and started looking for the entry-door. There was a door but I was not able to find a hotel name plate, so I was not sure whether this was my hotel. There was a small name plate which I finally found after some struggle. Now, I confirmed that this was my hotel. There were some stickers on the door and one of them read “Mr.Safi” or something far-similar to my last name. I ignored it and rang the bell. No one answered, I tried after sometime again but the same situation, no one replied. I tried calling the hotel incharge, but since I was on an international roaming, I was not able to connect to her after the phone rang. After a few tries, I tried to knock the door and tried to soft open it but nothing happened. There was security camera just above the door so I did not try to push that door otherwise I did not want to get accused of breaking into. Hehe. Finally after spending 15-20 minutes there, I decided to go the cafeteria where I de-boarded and then look for some help. I dragged my luggage from the inclined path and after crossing some paths, entered the cafeteria which was all empty. I wished the person at the desk and asked for a hot coffee, Cappucinno. I explained him the situation of the hotel and he asked me to wait here unless something good happens. At the same time, he told me that there is someone there who just came from inside the hotel and watched the door being closed. I trusted him and told him that I have to to cancel the coffee (which he did not start preparing yet).
I rushed towards to the hotel. When I reached the hotel door, there was someone outside and asked him what’s going on there? He replied that he saw me from inside his room and came outside to help me. I thanked him and now I was inside the hotel lobby. It felt warm and comfortable inside. The fragrance in the hall was like sweet and old which I today still remember today. Now the next experience was that there was no someone at the desk and I had no information on the keys and room. This is despite I had given them my arriving time via email. But I really had no complaints, because sometime stuff happens and it can happen to anyone, we might not know the exact reason behind it but it happens. Suddenly the entry door opens and there comes a fat, t-shirt weaning guy or better say a man. We exchanged wishes and I asked him on how to reach the person at desk. He was drunk. He asked my name and then said “we are brothers, muslim-muslim.” He reacted high and said “just wait and let me talk to them”. I though he was kinda boss or say an owner. He calls the incharge and scolded her for her duties. He highlighted my case there is a boy and has been waiting since an hour and there is no one to welcome him. The housekeeper or the incharge felt sorry about it. I could listen to the conversation as the phone speaker was loud. She (housekeeper) told that man that my room number was xxx and the keys are hanging in the lobby side. He hanged the phone, gave me the keys, his visiting card which says ‘Paul, an IT person and asked to call him if I needed something here and any help. I thanked him a lot.
In The Room
Now I was inside my room which was a little bit more hotter than the hotel lobby.
The room was an en-suite having a small glass-made bathroom inside it, a large window at the front which gave me the complete view of what’s going on the road. I could hear the noise of vehicles, ambulances, some hipsters playing loud music, and some revving up their engines. I offered ‘salah’ (prayer), managed my luggage, made a hot coffee. I placed my suit which I brought for the interview, clothes inside the wardrobe.
I was able to find the wi-fi password printed on a laminated A4 sized paper placed inside the drawer, some nescafe coffee and milk pouches. Guess what, I used all the milk (4 pouches) for 1 pouch of coffee.
I talked to my family on Skype on my years old HP laptop given to me by my bro and after sometime went to bed. I then, had a good sleep. So this was my story from home to the hotel.
Next is how was the interview day, questions, rounds, candidates! This I will cover in a separate post. Well, if you have something to say, please go on and comment 🙂
*Sorry for grammar mistakes, if any.