I married my husband on September 15th, 1991 in Bengaluru, Karnataka, India. I immediately joined him in the United States while he completed his Master’s degree at Texas Tech University. As the wife of a student on an F-1 visa, I was prohibited from working under United States immigration laws. Feeling unmotivated and nostalgic for Bengaluru, I decided to pick up classes at my local community college– which triggered a culture shock.
The differences between the American and South Indian lifestyles were stark. From the second I landed in the United States, I was in awe of the wide, clean roads– the complete opposite of the busy streets of Bengaluru. The absence of a bustling community made me feel homesick and lonely, so I befriended the wives of appa’s colleagues, who also happened to be fellow immigrants. My college experience in America contrasted my college experience in India: students would address professors by their first names and could speak freely with one another during lectures. In one instance, an Anthropology professor of mine said an offensive comment about Native Americans. Another student raised their hand and disagreed with the professor. I recalled my school days in Bengaluru– if a student disagreed with a professor on such matters, they would have been kicked out of the classroom. I also noticed that in American society, financial status did not indicate how important an individual was– a classist practice commonly seen in India.
In 1993, I received my H-4 visa and EAD. I was ecstatic because my EAD allowed me to work in the United States, and I immediately put my Information Science major to use at a local company. My colleagues were welcoming, and I was happy to finally receive my own earnings, but my admittance into the University of Maryland, Baltimore County ushered in the start of a new era– my life as a student at a public university. UMBC was where I made lifelong friends with fellow immigrant women studying to complete their Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. Occasionally, I sported Indian clothes on campus, which prompted many questions about my culture from inquisitive students. After two years, I graduated from UMBC with a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Science and began working at a company I interned at during my term at the University.
After receiving my green card, I finally had the ability to visit my family back in India without any trouble. I booked a flight to Bengaluru in 1994 and stayed there for two whole months in order to catch up with my family and friends.
My two-month stay in Begaluru provoked a strong feeling of homesickness after I landed in the United States. After my trip was one of the first times that I considered moving back to India. Another time was during a road trip to Niagara Falls with my husband. While he enjoyed his meals with chicken, I could not find any restaurant with a menu that included vegetarian food. Surviving off of side salads for a whole day was bothersome enough to make me consider moving back to Bengaluru. However, my feelings changed once my husband and I had my oldest daughter in 2000. I had to put my past behind me in order to provide my daughter with plenty of opportunities. Since I had decided to stay, I took my citizenship test in July, 2006 and officially became a citizen of the United States of America.
* The contributor of this story has asked that their name be withheld.