My name is Suresh Raghavan.
INTERVIEWED BY Aishwarya Suresh

"But clearly there was racial issues if you stepped out of the university, because it's still the South and it was still the late 80s."

Chennai, India

Auburn, Alabama



Grosse Pointe, Michigan



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

Yeah, first day. My experience was, you know, this was the first time I was flying out of India. And landing in Atlanta airport on September 7, I think 1988. That was a fall in Atlanta. I landed there. And I remember I brought something for somebody, some family member, friend in Atlanta, and she came to the airport. It was I think, a sari, so I gave her the sari and then she dropped me off at the little, small bus station or the, the transportation to Auburn. Auburn about an hour and a half from Atlanta airport. And I took that transportation to Auburn and reached in the evening. A friend of mine from college used to be at Auburn, so he and his friends came to pick me up, because the transportation dropped me off at a hotel nearby, and they picked me up and they had an apartment. So I used to, I lived with them for, for that day and the next few days. The next morning, I remember going into eating at my first fast food place. It was the Hardeeā€™s next door. So went down, had my breakfast at Hardee's. So every all this experience was completely new, brand new place, a small little place compared to Chennai, where I grew up.

So the experience was just beginning to start. So the first and foremost, I had to join my department Materials Engineering, I came here for a master's degree. And so the key thing was I didn't have an assistantship at the time. So my job was to figure out how I can find get assistantship with the department. And along with that, getting the other jobs on campus so that pretty much the first day onwards my, there was I was pretty stressful to figure out how I'm going to get all this done because I had a limited amount of money that I came from with, which my dad have given me, but probably would have taken me, for three months could have been paid off my expenses for three months. So with that, I started talking to the department and figuring out if I can get an assistantship, and also in the meantime, I found a job at the athletic department as a tutor. So pretty, so pretty much within a week I found a job and I was ready to go. So that's my memory is trying to get settled into Auburn and, and do all the other things like you have to do like get a bank account, get applied for social security card, then I wasn't obviously I wasn't driving, so walk all over the campus. It was pretty nice campus. And you know, it was just 22 years old, so you could walk all over the place.

The tutoring part was pretty interesting, because these were the athletes at Auburn, they played football and basketball. So that was a unique cultural experience for me to just begin as a tutor there and getting to know these athletes. Other than that it's a south, Auburn's in south. So there is a southern drawl and getting used to the southern accent. And there's a lot of funny incidents in moments where people couldn't understand my accent and I couldn't understand their accent. Although we both of us were speaking in English, so I think those were some there were some lot of funny moments there.

People were overall nice in the small town of Auburn, Alabama. But clearly there was racial issues if you stepped out of the university, because it's still the South and it was still the late 80s. So but the university itself was very diverse. It was all young kids and professors and faculty. So that worked very well. They aren't, the campus jobs, interestingly, added the tutoring in the athletic department. And pretty soon within a couple of months, I got the assistantship set squared away. So that helped me settle down into Auburn a lot more. And I did my masters there. Throughout the Masters, I got involved in a lot of things on campus, so that made me a lot more used to the American culture. And the things that I did on campus helped me literally, it felt like I'm starting off, over a new life In the U.S. because everything was different, but then again, you felt like your brand new life here. You know, you can just really create, recreate your identity, which way we wanted to and there's a lot more opportunities available to you. So that helped. Just get keep going. There pretty much. That was kind of my first day in the U.S. in a nutshell [laughs]. First day of first week. Thank you.