My name is Ramesh Chandra.

"And one of the classes was in the evening at 6pm. And that professor who was teaching it, I couldn't understand a single word he said on top of that, he used to bring his own sandwich during the class, and he will be eating it [laughs]"

New Delhi, India

Boston, Massachusetts





So, what do you remember from your first days in the United States when you arrived?

So at the airport. Luckily, I had two very good friends who were from Allahabad [India]. They are already had their apartment. And then I was in contact with them. So they came to the airport, they didn't have the car themselves, but one of their friends had a car. So they came there. So I came out of the airport, and they were just waiting there. And then we were in the car. And then airport through was a huge airport compared to the airport in India. And then we first thing was, we passed through this tunnel, which is a long tunnel from Logan Airport to the city. So that was first thing to see is this big tunnel, I never saw a tunnel [laughs]. And then we came home. So they already had a room for me, because they knew I'm coming. So they had rented a three bedroom apartment. So I already had set up there. So I had to buy few things. So which they already knew where to buy, et cetera. So I didn't have to struggle in that sense. And then they had a kitchen setup, so food wise, cooking etc. We did all together. So in that sense, I didn't have any problem with some new person who doesn't know anyone, all of a sudden will encounter these kind of problems. So they had actually cooked dinner too. So we ate dinner, all four of us. So that was very nice. That those are the first one or two day that I'm not sure it was two days or three days after, I had to start my classes,

Which is, which is why you immigrated to continue…

To, continue my education right for my PhD. And I was awarded a Teaching Fellowship, plus the tuition. So I didn't have to pay any tuition. But for my normal day to day expenses, rent, food, that teaching fellowship provided for it.

So my first experience in the classes, I took three, three classes. And one of the classes was in the evening at 6pm. And that professor who was teaching it, I couldn't understand a single word he said. On top of that, he used to bring his own sandwich during the class, and he will be eating it [laughs]. That made it even worse.

Was his accent hard to follow?

Yeah, the subject was very difficult. And the, the book, which were following was also I, I couldn't, you know, many times if the teacher is bad, I can self-teach myself, you know, by reading, etc. And then talking to some friends or classmates. But this was an impossible task. Luckily, I don't know why I had that sense. So they give you three days or two classes or three days that you can drop without affecting your grades. In other words, it doesn't count that you took that course you basically dropped that course. So, I dropped that. So, the in the other two courses one I got A, I think one I was A-. So the next day the chairman calls me that I didn't do good. “I was expecting I had very high hopes from you. And I hope you do better next semester because this is not acceptable”

Just because of A-?

A- and then I dropped that course. I think that he was mad about that. More than I think that A-.

Yeah. Okay.

So next semester, yeah, of course, I took three courses. And then I did very good at them. This thing was there was no person to guide me, you know what courses I should start taking, etc. Maybe I took that wrong course to start with, but I never took that course again [laughs]. After that, I basically did very good in my studies.

In terms of outside accent was definitely a problem for a while but not as much Mom had you know I started maybe within two three days. At least I could guess what they were talking completely. And I wasn't very fluent with English because I didn't go to India, in English schools, I was all but all my science subjects were in English and they were taught in English. So first thing was the foodwise. At that time, and America basically was meat and potato country. The vegetables such as I have seen are basically boiled with no salt, nothing in them and overcooked. And then there weren't very many restaurants except some Chinese restaurants either. Then Italian with basically pizza shops, there were many pizza shops. Those were the two basically different. But my problem was we didn't eat meat, not only meat, looking at meat in the beginning, you know, it really felt very awkward, very bad looking at the you know, that blood stain-

In the grocery store?

In grocery stores and outside in the restaurants too kind of thing. So, so that was the other problem was, you know, the one thing you could eat outside was grilled cheese sandwich. But the stupid guys grilled it right where they grilled the meat.

Yeah, yeah, I know. It's a big problem.

It was a horrible problem. So we could eat. So the only thing that there was a small, what you call coffee shop right in front of our physics department. So, I used to sometimes go coffee and then take English muffin, they used to have English muffin [laughs]. The outside that was my main. They cooked at home.

You cooked at home-

So we were able to yeah, that way. They had no problem because this way I was getting Indian food. So right. Yeah. But slowly we got adjusted, you know, adjusted to life.

Culturally, as I think I read…the shock was, of course, boys and girls kissing, smooching. Yeah, there near the Charles River. In summer, they will be lying down on top of each other [laughs]. And that, that sounded, coming from India, it was so crazy.
If you call that, for me that was great Indian food.

Of course, Indian food too. There wasn't much variety, because you couldn't get a lot of Indian spices, not Indian vegetables. Anything. So we, we could get flour. So we made our chapatis and rice. And then we could get some dals. nd soup, so that was a and then of course the fruits were here, which is good. And then of course in the supermarket, you get vegetables. So you could make vegetables soup. Yeah, not all the lentils, you got just one, one or two lentils. So that's all we had. But I enjoyed, you know, after some time I started enjoying, of course, I missed the home definitely. And we could write home a letter, and then we'll get a reply, you know, in almost a month, you know, because it took two weeks for the letter to go there. And then two weeks. So any correspondence was one month, basically.

Yeah. I definitely wanted to go back to India, you know. I wasn't that enchanted to stay in India [in the United States] because everything was foreign to me in that sense. In first year. Okay. Any other question? Or I said most of it.

Yeah, you covered a lot of it. So just like two last ones like so first, did you have any presumptions about American culture that were like, challenged during your first days in the U.S.?

Not really, because there may be some Indians in large cities who knew about America very much, except America as they do ours country, you know, their cars and all that I didn't have much because I didn't watch American movies at all. So I didn't know anything about American life, way of life or anything. So everything was new to me.

What advice would you give to other newly arrived immigrants in the US?

Well, now with the internet and the YouTube, etc. First thing will be to really watch American life before you come here. Get familiar with little bit how to talk. Say “Thank you” and all that. I mean now in India too you have, when I came from in India, they didn't have toilets, American toilets, etc. Yeah. Then the other shock was, you know, where the switch is and how different things operate. We have no idea of anything. So we have to learn sometimes [laughs]. Not I volunteer that I told you, you know, I want this, you should say “please.”

The storekeeper.

So when you first saw an American toilet, were you like confused on how to, how to use it? You kind of figured it out.

Figured it out, yeah, but it's still sometimes some are different than the others. Right. So you have to little bit yeah, yeah, we figure because once you come in the plane and you have to use it, so I got, got a little bit toilet was in that [inaudible]. I was saying otherwise. Yeah. Right. Yeah. Otherwise, the roads you know, the cars, they speeded how fast they went all that was.

They weren't faster here than in India.

In India. The roads were bad. So those are the first few impressions. For people that will be my advice to you know, at least once before. Get yourself acquainted, because now you can get acquainted with American life or anywhere you go with the customs and all those of those countries. So I don't think now is that difficult for people coming from outside. Anywhere from outside unless they are completely illiterate and they have no idea they come from the village, then of course they have problems. And then even the customs like using knife, fork when to use, not to use

Not to use your hands-

Those were a little tricky to learn.