My 14th anniversary...starting 1997.

Growing up in immigrant America wasn't easy, but it made me a better person that I am today.

You know when you celebrate anniversaries, you want your whole entire family to know about it? Well, I'm in the same position but my anniversary is a bit different than most.

On June 21st, 1997, a journey began at the New York International Airport. A journey I thought would be short and not 14 years long. Today marks my family's arrival into the United States of America.

On my way to work today, I thought, I should be celebrating with balloons and a cake. Rather, I reflected on studying abroad in Wales and traveling around Great Britain and Ireland. But before I share those experiences in the UK, let me describe what it was like settling in the New World starting 1997.

When I stepped down from Air India on June 21st, 1997, I was very young to properly understand the situation of settling into a new country and environment. Although I had a few days of school in New York, I did know that India was far away but didn't know how to make friends in such a setting with diverse nationalities.

After moving to Bensalem, I began to realize that going back wasn't really an option with full-time school and parents working regularly. I missed my relatives so much that sometimes I would daydream in class, thinking about the memories I cherished in my early childhood in India.

Growing up as an immigrant was hard. Prior to arriving to America, I watched the news with my parents about the US and its life. People around us indicated that living in a free country was the best decision they made. This was and still is true, but I wasn't ready to face struggles in school and my neighborhood.

I was discriminated as an immigrant Indian and not being able to fit in. One incident that I can recall was with a group of people I used to see every day at the end of middle school and beginning of high school. Although I didn't have honors classes in social studies, I still had a passion to study the field beyond high school. I started to make many friends from middle school in orchestra and a science club called PA Junior Academy of Science (PJAS). Most students didn't participate in extracurricular activities like orchestra and PJAS and stereotyping was increasing in my community.

I approached them one day during lunch and said, "Can I sit here?" They said, "Only if you have Basic, and not Academic, level classes and because you do you are not allowed to sit with us." I was taken aback because having someone say this to me was astonishing. I never had people say that I had to have a certain characteristics in order to be part of their 'club.' Yes, my fellow readers, I was told that if I didn't act like them, I wouldn't be able to fit into their circle of friends.

This incident reminds me of Katy Perry's song "Firework" and a particular stanza in the beginning: Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin, like a house of cards, one blow from caving in.

I told my parents about the situation and decided that it was time to migrate to a different location where my talents and skills were appreciated and help was available. My grades certainly didn't do the talking about my personality but I can still recall my first interview with my new high school with a guidance counselor that cared about my education and future successes.

However, after graduating high school in Doylestown, and studying abroad from Arcadia University to Bangor University in Wales, I began to reflect on how my experiences as an immigrant Indian helped me grow as the person I am today. For example, when I reflected on incidents where I didn't fit in to society in the early years in America, I remembered them when I studied abroad.

Studying abroad in a new setting was a huge adjustment but everything fell into place because I have already been in the footsteps of a newcomer. It wasn't hard for me to buy groceries, cook my own food, do laundry, and other household chores. When I entered one of my journalism classes on the first day, I knew that I made the right decision by settling in Bangor, Wales, for a semester. I was surrounded by a group of people that shared ideas similar to mine.

I shared my immigrant experiences in the classroom and connecting topics to my mini adventures in immigrant America. My classmates started to realize that there is more to America than 90210, Secret Life of the American Teenager, GLEE, and eating hot dogs and fries in downtown Philly.

Having experienced new settlement in America made me a the Viral I am today. Of course study abroad was the icing on the cake, but the international education I recieved in Wales is only the first layer of the cake.

Looking forward to new experiences reminds me of the last few verses of "Firework": Baby you're a firework, come on let your colors burst, make em' go "Oh, oh, oh!" You're gonna leave em' all in "awe, awe, awe!"

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Mary Alice Brancato June 23, 2011 at 10:32 AM
Viral I think you'll find in life there will always be people who want to discriminate or exclude you based on color, religion, what kind of car you drive, where you live, your career choice etc. The important thing is to just find good people to share your life with and those that feel the need to exclude ...they aren't worth your time anyway! Just be yourself. I tell my kids to just be free to be yourself. If someone likes you great....if they don't...they are missing out on a great friend and it is truly their loss.
Viral S. Trivedi June 23, 2011 at 02:49 PM
Thanks, Mary! I did find a good group of people here in the States and studying abroad in Wales. Come to think of it, I had a chance to talk to a couple of Indian immigrants in Great Britain as it was part of my independent research: Redefining National Identities in the Modern United Kingdom. I'm still working on it but will let you know when it's done and where it will be published.
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