My name is Suja Sukumar.
INTERVIEWED BY Aishwarya Suresh

"And so, when I landed in Atlanta the airport, I was pretty struck by how empty it felt compared to an airport in India."

Kerala, India

Atlanta, Georgia



Grosse Pointe, Michigan



Can you tell me about your first day in the United States?

So when I first came to the U.S, um, at that time, you know, the, I came to Atlanta, and that's where my husband was located. He was working, he was at the Auburn University. And so when I landed in Atlanta the airport, I was pretty struck by how empty it felt compared to an airport in India. You know, when I left from India, we left from Mumbai, and the airport was really crowded. So I felt that difference immediately. And then it was a warm, sunny day when we landed in Atlanta. When I landed in Atlanta, and then he came to pick me up. So I remember driving, you know we were driving the highway from Atlanta, all the way to Auburn. And the one thing that struck me about the highway was, how again, how empty it looked, because I was so used to having, you know, seeing people by the roadside and seeing the place, the places are usually pretty crowded in India. So I was struck by the emptiness.

And then once we got Auburn though I immediately felt at ease, because it was a smaller town, a small university town, and, and then the apartment, in the apartment we lived in, we were living in at that time, it was a small apartment. And then I remember my time, time at the university in that in that area. Um, I found there were a lot of people around who were from different ethnicities. And that was one thing, which I really liked as well, because there were a lot of Indians in that place in Auburn. And then there were a lot of people from other ethnicities too. So that made me feel at ease. And I made quite a few friends there. You know, people from different ethnicities, and then the community there was very welcoming. My husband's professors, they were also very welcoming. I remember that there was a professor from Taiwan, he had invited us to his house, actually, for a Thanksgiving dinner. He invited all his students and their families. And that made me feel, you know, that made me feel really comfortable while I was in Auburn. And then the other part of Auburn, which I really liked was the library, they had a really big library. And I used to go down there pretty much daily to study because I had to study for my USMLE exams, the exams I had to take before I could start my residency in the US. And that was something after med school, so you have to take the USMLE exams in order to interview for a residency program. So, I would go there and study for the, for the test. And then in the evening, Suresh, my husband would come by my husband would come by and pick me up from the library, and then we'd walk back to the apartment. So it felt really comfortable. It was very relaxing, the life there was really relaxing. There wasn't much stress, you know, he was finishing up his PhD program while I was studying for my exams.

And then I think in the other parts of Auburn [Alabama], other parts of the US, I guess, you know, during certain, certain periods of time, especially during Christmas, it used to get pretty lonely. And that was because, you know, most of the kids, being a typical university town, it would empty out during the holidays and during Christmas, when students returning to their own homes. And I think the first year was pretty hard for me because I used to feel really homesick at that time. Not being able to return home at that time was tough. I think that you know, for, for me especially. But then we used to get invited by other families, other Indian families, other friends, you know, my husband's friends and our friends who would invite us over to their house. And they would invite us over to their house and as [inaudible] Christmas and holidays and that was extremely, they would totally make us feel at home. So I think the student community and then and the professors and their families, they made us feel completely at home while we were down there. So overall, I think my first, first few days in Auburn, after the initial cultural shock, I was able to assimilate largely because the because a huge international student community.