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The Student News Site of University of Kentucky

Kentucky Kernel

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COLUMN: Being an Indian immigrant on campus

Illustration by Akhila Nadimpalli

Constantly converting from dollars to rupees. Using too many syllables to pronounce aluminum. Strange accents (yours, not ours).

The mind of an Indian immigrant on campus is always churning, but not about the big stuff — we’re prepared. We are always prepared. We came out of the womb prepared and prepared further every night before bed on how to manage our finances as a bedtime story.

We plan things out to the minute and have 23 contingencies if something goes sideways. Not because we wanted to, but because we had to — our parents had big dreams of us carrying out their dreams for them. There is no room for mistakes, or else you’ll get deported.

While that statement isn’t accurate, it is a preface for our bedtime story, which is why we make such incredible CEOs and engineers with nutritional deficiencies you haven’t even heard of, son.

We’re always warned about the daunting changes about moving to campus, but never the little things that upon arrival are jarring, especially in the South. For example: Biscuits. Are. Everywhere. And not the kind we’re used to having with chai, which is quite disappointing. Biscuits are at Burger King, which is not at all reflective of its name.

Another thing people don’t mention: if we pronounce even one word a little incorrectly, we will immediately get ridiculed for it. We will then be asked to pronounce that word at least three more times so the natives can get used to our twisted speech impediment of pronouncing words exactly as written.

People also talk about astrology way too much here … and I’m Indian, so that’s saying something. Everyone defines their personality according to Co-Star as often as we bribe wedding planners to change our astrological chart to find a more convenient reception date.

Finally, one of the most emotionally burdensome challenges of surviving in this country is how no one fights over the bill. Whenever I go out to eat here … everyone is very willing to let someone else pay for them. It’s unhealthy.

If you don’t fight over the bill for at least three minutes, are you even real friends? You’re definitely not good ones. You’re supposed to be hanging out with each other through a series of bribes … Your friendship has nothing to do with the present company, it’s just an endless cycle of creative ways to pay each other back. “Oh, you’re already spending $50,000 a semester for tuition, room and basic necessities? That’s not an excuse, Marcie.”

Given the inconsistencies of the world, we are masters of deception … at making people think we aren’t talking about them in another language. We absolutely are. And we have so much experience with faking naivety to get through immigration smoothly that they have no defenses against our mechanisms.

This is all to say, be nice to your immigrant friends, no matter where we’re from. We have traveled in a lot of crappy international flights to be here. Or worse, Spirit. People don’t understand the horrors we’ve endured to be in the same English literature class as them to analyze what Edgar Allen Poe really meant when he wrote, “I wish I could write as mysterious as a cat.”

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