I do not remember much when I first arrived, mainly due to my immigrating at the early age of 5. One thing I remembered before leaving India was my last birthday party, a large event that included many of my friends and family. I admit I did not realize we were leaving for America until we got to the plane. What I knew about the United States was how many Americans may view other developed countries, like Japan, more industrialized and technologically advanced.
When we arrived in the U.S., we first landed in Pennsylvania, where my family shared a one-bedroom apartment, greatly contrasting from our large home back in India. Some of the major changes I noticed between the U.S. and India was the environment; the weather was good, the streets were clean, and there were not as many people around. My transition into school was not difficult; the children did not care. I do remember how quickly my name became Americanized, specifically in the pronunciation. However, while I adjusted relatively well, the same could not be said about my parents. My father had been to the U.S. before, but for my mother, it was also her first experience in a new world. My father was able to find a job at a small start-up as an engineer, but my mother would not start working until I was in middle school due to her not having a green card.
Although we moved to the United States, my family often traveled back to India every few years to reconnect with family and friends. After adapting to American culture, I found the visits back to India as slightly weird, my family in India often calling me “Americanized”. Up until a few years ago, my family were the only ones to be in the United States out of our extended family. I often thought about how my father would often send money back to our family in India.
When my family first moved to the United States, we struggled to keep in touch with our culture. Because of the lack of community when we first arrived, our family did not really engage with our culture. Now that we have been in the United States for a while and developed friendships with other Indian families, we are able to be more engaged in our culture, more specifically our religion, Hinduism. I feel that our culture seems closely tied to our religion, and now that our culture is shared amongst friends, it is easier for my family to stay engaged.
This past summer, I took [the citizenship test] and officially became a U.S. citizen. When I consider my comfort in my Indian identity versus my American identity, I was not hesitant to admit I was more comfortable in my American identity, which is understandable after spending most of my life in the U.S. I know my experience is just one of many immigrants’, but I hope it broadens the perspectives of others who may not understand.
* The contributor of this story has asked that their name be withheld.