From Gurgaon, India
By Claire Kalikman
Q: Why did you decide to leave your country for Yale?
A: I really wanted the global exposure – and what better place to do that than Yale? I wanted to experience the liberal arts style of education, as well as a diversity in what I studied, while maintaining depth. In India, in most higher education institutions, you would study the same main subject for the entire duration of your undergraduate studies, and you pretty much cannot switch. I much prefer the flexibility of Yale’s liberal arts curriculum. I am a prospective Economics major, but I am also interested in literature, computer science, and history, which I would not have had a chance to study in much depth in India.
Q: What’s been the hardest cultural adjustment?
A: I don’t think it’s as much a cultural adjustment as it is just being away from home.
Q: What do you miss most about your country?
A: My family and friends…and Bollywood! I’d like to take advantage of any opportunities in the United States or abroad, but my heart lies in India. I want to be there long-term, especially because I want to be involved in economic development, and that is a great place to do that. I feel very passionate about giving back to my country.
Q: What’s the most unexpected thing about living in the United States?
A: The most unexpected part is how natural and comfortable it becomes after a while even as I feel somehow more attached to India. I’ve learned to cherish India’s cultural peculiarities a lot more now that I’m here. Since I’ve made great friends here and it’s the first time I’m making a life for myself without the cocoon of my family, I’m perhaps just as attached and accustomed to this life now.
Q: What’s one aspect of your country the United States should adopt?
A: “Atithi Devo Bhava” – Guests are akin to God. I don’t think Americans are rude at all, and I’ve met wonderful people here. But in India, there is a very deep-rooted tradition of welcoming guests and even strangers with a great degree of warmth and hospitality.
Q: What’s something your country could learn from the United States?
A: This is less about my experience in the US, and more my experience at Yale, but I really appreciate how Yale institutionalizes the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake. In India, the premier institutions of higher education are instead mostly focused on pre-professional training.
Q: What’s something most people don’t know about your country?
A: The fact that it’s not elephants and flying carpets – not just, at least! It’s an economic powerhouse and a cultural treasure-trove.
Claire is a rising Sophomore in Morse College. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.