“I thought the Atlanta airport was huge and enormous… I've never seen an escalator before in my life. Me in my traditional Indian churidar, black and gold slippers, and some kind of vest. People were staring at me, maybe it’s because they knew I was so nervous. I had thick glasses and bindi, and I was running to my connecting flight with my suitcase. I felt safe, but I knew people were staring at me. For my connecting flight to Johnson City, Tennessee, I was given the very last seat in the back of the plane- I felt discriminated against- the whole airplane was empty…
It was the most strangest day because I have not experienced such a silent day before. We are so used to pollution and crowds all over India. Here, when I came it seemed so silent, even cars did not honk.
Everything looked so big to me compared to India, the cars, everything around me seemed so different. A woman named Madhumati from a student organization at my college picked me up from the airport, and took me to her home- she made me comfortable. She cooked South Indian food, the traditional kind of my home, even though she was from a different region of India with a different kind of food. That night, when I layed down to sleep- it all came to me. All this time I was excited thinking “I'm going to America, I'm going to America!” but that night I thought about my parents, my home, everything… maybe I felt like i'm intruding in Madhumati’s life. But she didn't feel comfortable taking me to a dorm right on my first night in America.
The people of Tennessee are the most amazing people. They would say “Hi, honey” and “How are you sweetie.” They are so nice, like Gods. To me, I felt like they were godly people- it felt like heaven.
My entire personality and who I am today developed, at the age of 22. "
* The contributor of this story has asked that their name be withheld.