When I was asked to write for this blog I was like, this could be fun as I am always telling my story of how I ended up here. Well, like most of us in this profession, regardless of our ethnicity, race, etc. we stumbled upon it through our undergraduate experiences. I was a student at Cook College, Rutgers University and was very involved as a student. I worked in the Student Center for the Director, was on the programming board, and Resident Assistant (basically a full-time student leader) while I majored in Biotechnology. My parents, particularly my dad, came to this country to get his Masters in Mechanical Engineering and to provide his family with a better life. So when it was my turn to go to college, it was all about being a pharmacist because as an Indian female you can have a great career and still get married and take care of your family. All along I knew I had no desire to be a pharmacist, however I really did enjoy the sciences, so I decided on Biotechnology and the idea of doing research with the hopes of doing genetic research to find the cure to some disease.
As I went through college I found that, as much as I enjoyed learning and taking advanced classes, I really was not good at research and spending quality alone time in a lab. I was the person that had to do research over because I lost track of time and left the petri dish in the oven too long and ruined all my findings. However I really enjoyed, actually loved, my out-of-the classroom experience and excelled at it. When I was told I could do this for a living, I said sign me up, and then realized I had to have that conversation with my parents, mainly my dad. That conversation did not go well, as he said “I didn’t come to this country for my daughter to become a secretary”.
I graduated with my degree in Biotechnology and had the greatest opportunity to work at the Cook Campus Center while my advisor went on maternity leave. I told my parents it was just a job until I found a job in research. Since it was a temporary position, I started to apply for jobs in Student Affairs and pharmaceutical companies to do research (for every 10 Student Affairs job I applied for maybe I applied for 1 research position). My parents, were not happy with me. Going home was very difficult as it was an argument every time and I honestly had disappointed my dad.
Well fast forward a few years, my parents came to understand, or as I believed gave up, on the idea of me following their dreams. I started to advance in the profession, got involved in a Professional Association and started making a name for myself. Over the past few years I saw how proud my parents were of me; they would tell friends I worked at Rutgers, I supervised staff, and etc. I don’t think they really understood what I did but it was important according to them.
Last year when I was featured in The Bulletin, the Association of College Unions International magazine, my parents showed everyone. My dad’s nurse at Sloan Kettering told me he was very proud of me and that he had no regrets raising his kids in America. I recently started to wonder if I had done research would I have been able to find the cure to save my dad, and the answer is probably not because I was really bad at it. But what I do know is that I truly love what I do and love coming to work. Finding my passion is exactly what I was able to do working in Student Affairs. I really don’t think anyone gets what we do unless they are a Student Affairs Professional themselves. Follow your dreams and you will be happy and successful!
This post is part of our #HigherEdDesi series, which aims to share the stories of what it means to identify as “Desi” and working in higher ed. We hope to provide a context of how we came into Higher Education and what that journey looked like for each one of us. For more information, please see Juhi Bhatt’s intro post. Be sure to check out other posts in this series!
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