HUMANS OF ISA
My name is Rishabh and I came here from India to study. Some organizations I am a part of are The Rocket Team and The Street Team by the student union. I am majoring in Computer Science, and it is something I look at as a tool. I chose Computer Science because I want to study machine learning in the future. I don’t want to have a normal job, I want to open my own startup, based in India. This idea came from my middle school days. One of the teachers motivated me to do something unique. I learned Python and Java in highschool, so once I got accepted at the U for computer science, I wanted to pursue it further.
Hello, my name is Anu (she/they), I'm a second-year master's student, going on for a PhD in Water Resources. Recently, I’ve started to think more about unanswered questions about my history and identity. I am mixed, Punjabi and white, so growing up a lot of Indian people would say I was not ‘actually Indian’. I faced rejection and struggled with that for a long time, but now I feel more secure and want to explore who I am more openly. I joined the Twin Cities Bhangra team, and that has been a true joy. Doing Bhangra with my family at events has made me feel closer to my roots, and dancing more often has helped that grow.
I am Indo-Guyanese; so my family is from Guyana in South America. It has a half Indian population due to indentured servitude which was created by the British in the 1830s to both forcibly and coercively bring Indians over to the Caribbean to replace slave labor. My family has been there for generations, but I grew up here in the Twin Cities in north end St. Paul. I would say that Indo-Guyanese people have a strong connection to India, but it is very different.
I was a practicing dentist in India for nine years and some life altering events led me to change my track. Now, I’m getting a Masters of Public Health in Epidemiology with a minor in biostatistics. When I first started working in India, I was married. I can give you a perspective as a professional and a married person. I had certain duties to perform as a married woman, which was not going well with my profession because it’s demanding being a doctor; you cannot just leave your patients hanging. As a woman in India and if you are married, it’s a challenge to work in a demanding field. I was the one managing my clinic and I was partially responsible for my earnings of the clinic.
I’m Rimika and am a freshman studying electrical engineering. On campus, I’m involved in Junoon, Engineering World Health and the Women in Engineering chapter of IEEE. When I was younger, for one of my birthdays my parents gave me a book about space, stars, and astronomy. I wanted to become an astronaut. After a few years, that dream morphed from being an astronaut in space to pursuing a career on earth within computer engineering.
TRIGGER WARNING: Eating Disorder
In my childhood I would hear things from my family and from people in India talk about how “Oh girls need to be skinny. No man is ever going to like you if you have curves or anything.” We always had to wear dupattas or scarves to hide our chest. That’s something that really stuck with me even to this day. It wasn’t until it got really bad to the point where I would pass out and lose my hair when I realized I was going through an eating disorder.
It took me a while to understand that people who truly care for me in this community will respect me and work to recognize and dismantle these stigmas. My message for other questioning people is: understand that it's okay to feel like you don’t know who you are. Everyone has to go through a period of time where they don't know who they are before they can actually embrace who they want to be.
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 .
I moved here when I was pretty young; I lived in the UK and India before that. When I first moved none of my Indian friends went to my school or were close to my grade. In school, there was this whole issue with bringing Indian food for lunch and it’s an experience a lot of kids go through. It fed into my insecurities of not feeling like I was Indian enough but also not American enough.
I want to help others be able define what being “Indian” means to them rather than letting other people define it. There is so much pressure from American society to be competitive and to be the best you can be. But then you combine that with being Indian, which, we're seen as the model minority and ultimately, you have this added pressure. Unfortunately, the feeling of not being good enough is all too familiar to all of us - and is what I want to talk about.
Looking at a lot of my Indian-American peers, I felt like I was supposed to be “great” at certain things (I can’t be the only one that has heard the phrase “but you’re Indian! You’re supposed to be good at math!”). I pressured myself to pursue science, because so many people told me that it would undoubtedly lead to success. But I still don’t know what success means to me, because I grew up around the idea that success is measured only on the basis of monetary value and stature.
“My family moved to the US when I was 8. Growing up, I mostly had white friends, maybe because I went to a predominately white school? I remember how everyone would say, “You’re basically white but you just have dark skin. Your true white self is hiding underneath.” I was confused but I thought yay, I’m a white girl! I fit in. I think I was trying to surround myself with people I wanted to be like. I didn’t think that Indian culture was worth celebrating when I first came here because no one else celebrated it.
TRIGGER WARNING: Depression, eating disorders, self-harm, and suicide
When I was twelve years old, I barely exercised and was not healthy - I considered myself chubby. This led to me feeling depressed and to overcome that, I started following very unhealthy habits - I ate less, or skipped meals altogether. Later, I met a mental health advocate who talked about her journey involving self-harm. Being young, I was influenced by this and started doing it too. I felt so alone that I even attempted suicide twice.
When I joined debate in high school, I learned a lot about systemic injustices caused by the government. This persuaded me to pursue political science. Along with knowing about injustices, I wanted to be able to write about them, thus developing an interest in journalism, too. I feel like majoring in these fields will give me the power to spread awareness about various injustices in the world, and to actually bring about change.
My dad’s job caused us to move around a lot, so I have been to many schools. Fitting in was kind of a struggle because we would live in apartments with wonderful Indian communities and I would have a lot of friends there but then I would get to school, which was majority white, and feel ostracized. We would move in the middle of the year when everyone had already made their friend groups.
As I think about what being Indian means to me, it has shifted over time; it started with a lot of insecurity but as I’ve strayed from that mindset. Particularly, Bharatnatyam helped me find beauty in our culture.
Starting in 7th grade I began to feel an onset of depression. In 9th grade, I remember telling my mom that I'm struggling with this, but she was more concerned about what others would think and its impacts on my future.
My parents came here from India with hopes and dreams of a good life for me and my brother. This really had an impact on my love for America. It filled me with false ideals of meritocracy. I think this is something that really challenged me growing up. I started noticing differences between me and my peers in the Indian community.
I’ve always felt uncomfortable within the Indian community. As a child, I assimilated pretty quickly because I went to a private school which was predominantly white. I was raised Christian and never found people who looked like me at my church. I didn't have a strong Indian community where I lived, so most of my friends were white. In fact, I was bullied for being Indian in kindergarten and I never really saw any Indian kids in school until I got to middle school.
For elementary, middle school and high school, I went to the same predominantly white school district called Wayzata. Throughout school, it was really hard to be different. When I would bring food I would try to hide it, because I didn't want people asking me what type of food I was having. It was more like ‘I don't want to talk to this person 'cause she's different’, ‘her food smells weird so I'm not going to talk to her’ type of thing. My issues with Indian culture started then because I felt like my culture was different and I wasn’t like other people in my school. I never felt comfortable to talk about my story. My biggest insecurity, however, came with my name.