My name is Surendra Chirra.

Madras, India

Queens, New York



Princeton, New Jersey

Hi, my name is Surendra Chirra, and I have been living in the US for over 20 years now.

Before moving to the US I was a chemical engineer working for ICI. I was interested in moving to the USA for better opportunities, so I applied to many universities and was accepted to University of Louisville. I got my American student visa in the consulate in Madras, and soon after left for the US. Almost 15 family members and friends dropped me off at my gate on August 16th, 1991. It was my first international flight experience, but I was excited to come to the US, so I enjoyed my flight. I even enjoyed the airline food, as it was my first time being served food in an aircraft. I remember being impressed by the size of the plane; it was some Jumbo 747 plane. We had a stop in London, and final destination was JFK where my college friend picked me up. He took me to his apartment nearby.

Something I found surprising were the huge roads – did not expect six lanes on each side of the road. For me it was a very different sight. I spent two days in New Jersey at my friend’s apartment. I experienced some culture shock adjusting to the bathrooms and carpet in the apartment. I called my dad to let him know I reached safely, but was only able to talk to him for 3 minutes because the call was so expensive. It was close to $2 per minute to talk so I was not able to call home often.

One of the first places I went to in the US was the local mall to buy some essentials. I was very impressed, as there were no malls in India at the time. I got some night dresses and a rice cooker. I remember that I always converted to Indian rupees, and was sometimes shocked at how expensive everything was. I took me almost a year to lose that converting mentality. Some of the things you cannot avoid buying, so you just buy it. I was not too surprised by the people in America, because I worked for an international company in India with many foreigners. However strangers in America were friendlier. People here generally make you feel at home. In India generally people don’t smile at you if they don’t know you. People say hello and smile here.

In the first few days I also had American beer from a can, which was different for me and also Taco Bell. I’ve never had a taco before but I enjoyed it. Overall, I don’t remember much – this is a 25 year old story and it seems very regular to me now.