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Hello everyone (rather I should say howdy folks)! I am Ripudaman Singh from the HKS New Delhi office. In December last year, I got the incredible news of getting selected for the Xchange Fellowship 2015-2016 in Q2 of 2015. It was actually a life-changing event for me, straight out of architecture school and during the start of my career. I definitely was not expecting an opportunity like this. But I am really thankful to HKS for this chance to explore a different culture and experience the ONE FIRM attribute of the firm.
After 3 months of day dreaming about the city I am going to be in, (a few moments to focus on work in the office is a mere understatement) I was on a flight to 'Big D' (that is, Dallas) in the State of Texas, United States of America. I had almost a sleepless flight of 20 hours because of the excitement and thoughts that were running around in my mind.
REACHING AND GETTING ACQUAINTED:
I reached Dallas on the 31st of March, as I had to start working on the 1st of April on a new assignment. Upon reaching the airport, I was received by the young groundbreaker, Southern Ellis, who himself went to Shanghai for the Xchange fellowship. He was there to make sure that I got acquainted with Texan life and American ways. On reaching Dallas, I could easily see the Texan warmth at the airport itself where people were all smiling and ready to help. I had a live example with me, while I looked for my delayed baggage at the airport. Southern called the airlines as RIPUDAMAN SINGH to enquire about it. Things got funny when the airlines people asked him to pronounce my first name. But all thanks to him, we got the baggage in 2 days. On the way to downtown Dallas, one can clearly see a plethora of high-rise buildings, which mark its elegant skyline. Also we picked up a true American meal consisting of a hamburger with fries and a very Texan drink of Dr. Pepper from What-a-burger. Yes guys, that was my first meal in Big-D. For the first two days, I was staying at a hotel, because HKS was changing the apartment, which was exciting, as I was going to be the first one to use that new apartment.
THE OFFICE :
The next morning Southern picked me up from the hotel, to walk me to the HKS office. I was awestruck to see an architectural office with 6 floors of pure architecture with, 500+ people working and churning out project after project. I was flabbergasted on the first go. I was introduced to everybody as the Xchange fellow of the 2nd Quarter, 2015. Each one of them was friendly and welcomed me to Texas. Thanks to my colleague, Sumandeep, who was here in 2013 on an Xchange, everyone know who I was and had the knowledge of the ‘turban’ beforehand. Some people even confused me with him and I had to convince them that I am not Suman.
I was introduced to the team I was going to work with, which was the ‘PURPLE’ team. That is the HKS Sports and Entertainment team on the 4th floor of the headquarters. It is a closely knit team and it was really kind of them to take me out for lunch to get to know them better. The floor in itself is an interesting place to be, with flying bullets of Nerf guns, football helmets and the flags of various teams that they support adorning the work space of the people working there. ‘Sporty’ in its true sense.
For the past month I have been working on a football stadium in Saskatchewan, Canada with a capacity of 33,000 seats, expandable to 40,000. This is completely a different and a thrilling experience for me, as I come from a nation which only concentrates on cricket. As the project is in the construction stage, I am getting to learn a lot from the team.
After resting in the hotel for 2 days and orienting myself with the time zone, I was made to shift into the striking new apartment in the Gables Republic tower on the 28th floor of the building. The apartment complex is just next door to the office building. The views from the apartment are exquisite. It’s a cozy place with the views towards the Dallas Arts District and Klyde Warren park (P.S. Sunsets are great from the apartment ). Southern helped me to look around for groceries, which were 2-3 stations away from the DART (Public Rail transport system of Dallas). The apartment is at a very convenient location, which means there are a plethora of events happening around in the neighborhood. Also, it is a 5 minute walk from Main Street .
EXPLORING DALLAS :
It was an exciting first month here in Dallas. I was able to explore a lot in my initial month. I started with exploring downtown and getting to know the buildings around by walking around. I even went to my faith’s Gurudwara (a Sikh temple ) which is in Richardson. It was reachable via DART and then a 20 minute walk. It was interesting to see a large number of Sikh people living in and around Dallas.
On one of the weekends, I went to Klyde Warren Park, which is the newest urban space connecting downtown and the uptown. Interesting part is that it is completely built over the highway that divided the two parts of the city earlier. It always has something or the other happening on any given day. The park is a perfect example of relief spaces needed in cities for its citizens to breathe. Another interesting aspect of it are the food trucks, which have various cuisines lined up everyday which you can experiment with .
My birthday in the month of April was a special one, as my new friends in Dallas celebrated it at the Rustic. The Rustic is the newest haunt of the young crowd in Dallas. The place has live music and good food, which makes it favorable among the young people in Dallas. Also, my project architect that I worked with threw a party for me at her residence, with a few other friends and colleagues, which made my birthday extra special in Dallas.
I also visited the Northpark Mall, which is a 20 minute drive from downtown. The mall is an interesting place to be. What impressed me was the modern art adorning the walls and the aisles of the mall, which was an exciting display of the young artists. Also, when I went there, they had an exhibition known as RETROSPECT, which had all the architecture and planning firms put up their work for public appreciation. I found the concept very fascinating, as it created a sense of awareness among the common people coming in to malls about what the architecture firms are doing for their cities and neighborhoods. Also, it made the kids and young people interested in the field and the latest trends of the industry.
I did not realise in all this exploration, how did this month go by! Soon I was in the last week of April, which happened to be GREENWEEK at HKS. It is a series of lectures given every day related to Green Architecture. The week was filled lectures, with some of the top speakers of the industry, which concluded with a Beer Friday with all the sponsors showcasing their new materials and technologies. I also won the 4 tickets to a baseball game in a raffle, which I am pretty excited to attend, as I have never ever been to a live baseball game.
Over the weekend after GreenWeek, there was an Earth Day celebration at Fair Park, which I was able to attend. It had all the industries working toward improving the environment together at one place and showcasing their respective initiatives. HKS put up a stall to showcase our initiatives towards a greener Earth.
It was a pretty interesting month of new beginnings and exploration, which has got me excited about the rest of the journey here in Dallas!