My name is Misha Garg and I am Indian and I arrived in the United States in 2008, in the summer. I was coming to the United States for the first time for college and I have a very distinct memory of been very proud of myself of having a managed and taken care of everything in regards to the college application process, such as all of my SATs and TOEFL exams as well as booking my flights and accommodation. I was very fortunate that my dad was accompanying me as he was going to be dropping me off to college and our first stop was from Delhi to New York. We were going to spend a few days in New York and then head down to Central Pennsylvania where I was going to be starting college at Dickinson College which is in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. When I arrived at the airport in Delhi and checked in for my flight I was asked for my I-20. Now, I knew that the I-20 was important and I had kept it really safely, but it kept really safely somewhere in a drawer at home and I did not have the form with me [at the airport]. This was a problem and in the moment I felt really, really embarrassed and you know this beautiful glass object that I had built which represented me being successful as an 18-year-old and having been independent and been able to take care of myself and the logistics of the trip, just kind of shattered. My dad, of course, was very supportive and he just said that you know it's going be OK. We were told that it's OK, and [that] once we get to the US things will figure themselves out, so not to worry. The agents talk[ed] between themselves and let us go.
There was about a four hour delay and while we waited had we known that we absolutely needed this document [1-20] to get on the flight, we could have sent our driver back to the house to fetch the document. But we did not [know], because they told us I was going to be OK, [but] as we were boarding the flight there is a police man standing right in front of the airplane door and he asked for my I-20 and along with other documents. I told him that I don't have it but that is wasn't a problem a few hours ago so I didn't think that it was going be a problem. He essentially told us that he can't let us on the plane as the U.S. government was going be really mad at them. But after some thought he let us on the airplane and said “I just don't know if they're going to let you in the country”. My dad was surprisingly calm and let me just know that it’s going to be OK it's no big deal. He said, let's just get there and we'll see what happens, we already paid for the flight tickets, don't worry about it. We arrived in the US and upon immigration check they asked for my I-20 and I didn’t have it so they took me to an immigration area and as we waited they told me that I had 30 days to turn in my I-20. So that was all really scary throughout the flight out and we had a layover in London and I had been frantically trying to get in touch with my college to send me an electronic copy. And then not having Internet when I arrived in New York at JFK and I didn’t have a smart phone back then. But they were there and nice enough to let us kind of wait it out and gave me a 30 day deadline.
So once that happens, you know me and my dad were relieved and thought all of that for nothing. like that's like it worked out so good so we made our way to the city and we were going to be staying at this hotel in downtown Manhattan. I had honestly booked a hotel in downtown Manhattan because in all the books had read, downtown was where all the fun stuff was. Of course, I didn't realize that Manhattan is all pretty lively and I didn't have to stay in downtown and that Midtown is actually where the lively stuff is, especially Times Square. so as we get to the hotel it was a tiny, tiny hotel with just enough room to kind of have a bed and a small bathroom. This hotel was $200/ night, so it was expensive and it wasn't very good. So as we arrived there, we settled in and we weren’t to the hungry so we just went to bed. The next day my dad was like you know what let's go check if they have a bigger room available and it doesn't hurt to ask. This room is way too tiny and it's just not going work. So we went to ask and luckily there was actually cheaper room available which had a loft in addition to room, so it was a lot bigger. So we opted for that [room] and then we went around exploring New York.
Both me and my dad had traveled a couple of other places before so we weren't completely new to being in a different country but of course America was this place that we had heard of it I never been to say it was very exciting still. I love walking so I insisted that we walked all the way from downtown to midtown, which my dad didn't love but he was always be supportive. As you walked around we had a hot dog and a pretzel and I remember being very excited about eating a pretzel because I had at seen it on TV. But I really didn’t enjoy it and I was just thinking what's the big deal, like why do people like it so much. There were a few moments like that but overall you know we were in New York for about three days and then we made our way through New Jersey and through Philly to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania by means of Amtrak. That was easy and we were both surprised how it left right on time and it arrived right on time because that is a different from the Indian train. And then when we arrived, I have this very distinct memory trying to navigate, looking for a taxi driver to take us to Carlisle, Pennsylvania where Dickinson College is. But the way Carlisle is written is C-A-R-L-I-S-L-E and both of us kept pronouncing it as Car-lis-lee, Pennsylvania. We tried for about 15 minutes and finally I just took at a printout of the reservation that we had for the hotel and showed it to the taxi driver. They were like, “Ah! You want to go to Carlisle, Pennsylvania!” and both me and my dad looked at each other like, we are not sure what they are talking about. And, as we sat in the taxi and just let the moment sink in we realized that you just pronounce it differently, and we are pronouncing in a different way which didn't allow for the word to be translated across people. So it was very funny, and they were really nice but there was a moment of – what are these people saying. It’s almost like they are speaking a foreign language and I don't understand where they want to go out. The taxi drivers felt like they know areas around here, and none of them are called Car-lis-lee, Pennsylvania. That was a unique experience. Then my dad helped move into college the next day and get me settled. I started school and he headed back to New York for a couple days before his flight back.