"Before coming to college, most of the schools I attended weren’t very diverse. The Indian traditions and cultures which I am proud to have as a part of my life today, used to be nothing but a mark of imperfection and embarrassment when I was younger. Particularly from middle school through my first year of high school, the inability to be proud of my background and love myself really lowered my self-esteem .
It stemmed from the insults about the Indian food I took to school, to the color of my skin. “How do I make my skin look lighter?”, “Can I not bring this food to school?”, “Can I change my name?” I asked my parents to change my name on my school application to “Samyu” before the start of every school year from middle school to eighth grade but they said “no" - something I am extremely grateful for now.
One thing that kept me grounded to my culture for the last twelve years is Carnatic music. Not only did singing away the stress give me peace through all of the social turmoil of school, it also helped me embrace my culture and be proud of who I am. The people who I studied music with let me embrace my true self. I learned to celebrate everyone’s accomplishments and differences, that not everything is a competition. And most importantly, to always be proud of myself, allow myself to grow, and understand that everyone is unique. Through the carnatic community, I met some of the most important and influential people in my life.
Coming to university was like being hit with a new wave of confidence, where I don’t feel like I have to be ashamed of the Indian side of my identity. The anxiety of being judged or left out is still there, but I am still learning to be grateful for how my Indian identity has impacted my life in the most amazing ways. One of the biggest lessons I have taken away from these past few years is to love myself first, before considering how others feel about me. I still feel imperfect and flawed in so many ways. I will never be the stereotyped Indian straight A student, award winning Carnatic singer, and I will make and learn from my mistakes. But my greatest success is being able to look in the mirror and love who I see."