What brought you to the United States?
What mode of transportation did you take and how was your trip?
I took a bullock cart...just kidding. It was a good, long trip through Germany, a Lufthansa flight from Delhi to Frankfurt to Chicago.
What were your first impressions of the country?
Chicago O’Hare airport’s a huge, massive airport. I had never seen an airport that big with so many planes, so many people.
What did you do on your first day and in your first few weeks here?
Well, my onward flight got delayed, so I stayed overnight in a hotel in Chicago. I ate pizza, because actually that was the only thing I could recognize on the menu in the airport; I mean, there was a burger, but I wasn’t sure about it. [In the first few weeks here], I found an apartment with a bunch of people I didn’t know, and I signed up for courses and started my graduate studies.
In your first year in America, did life in America meet your expectations?
I think so. I’m not sure what expectations I had to begin with other than just completing my studies and eventually getting a job.
Did you plan on staying here originally?
That was a possibility for sure, a lot of friends who were my seniors in college or in high school had started to stay so yeah, that was certainly a possibility.
What were some learning experiences you had when you came to the US?
Driving on the right side of the road, or the wrong side of the road, depending on your perspective.
Well actually, my first learning experience (because I didn't have a car in the beginning, so it’s not like I was driving), was the metric system, and that the US does not use the metric system. I had to convert all the temperatures, had to remember that it was in Fahrenheit and not Celsius and that everything was in miles and not kilometers. So that actually, on a day to day basis, was something that I had to learn. And of course we had to convert from rupees to dollars, that was another one--actually dollars to rupees, and I would think “Oh, this stuff is very expensive.” I think at that time one dollar was like thirty rupees, and I would go to the supermarket and see something like a box of cereal for three dollars and be like “Oh my goodness it’s 100 rupees.” I think that was probably something I had to get used to more and get used to very quickly because it’s a daily thing. You get up in the morning and look at the weather and it says “it’s going to be 100 degrees Fahrenheit” and like, what is 100 degrees Fahrenheit? So those were the mental calculations.
What was the biggest difference between America and your home?
One of the first differences I noticed was the late night TV shows--at that time it was Letterman and Jay Leno--making fun of the president and all the political leaders in the country, which was not common back then in India, even now it is probably not [common]. Like [in India] there are limits to what you can do.
What was the most difficult aspect of being an immigrant?
I think it was just keeping track of all the immigration requirements, your visas, and going through from a student visa to a work visa to a green card. Overall, it’s been a pretty easy thing, so I don’t know. My experience is probably very different from a lot of other people who have come here over the years.
What was your favorite part of being in America?
So many different experiences. I’ve always lived in a very cosmopolitan area, first in college, then Pittsburg, or even Seattle. People from all over the world with lots of different experiences.
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to a new immigrant today?
Keep your mind open and be flexible.