I have Desi students tell me, “Come on Ms. Hindocha, you know we are brown!” You don’t have to know anything more when Desi students walk in to your office and start the conversation with that statement. These students are in the wrong major, they either don’t have the passion to become a pharmacist or are going along with it for the wrong reason(s). The number one reason being parental expectations.
In the past four years of being an academic advisor, I have come across multiple situations in which a South Asian “Desi” family will ask to speak with me regarding admissions to Pharmacy School. As an academic advisor, I wear many hats; one in particular is that of an admissions counselor for potential students interested in attending pharmacy school. The problem is not that Desi parents want to speak with me, oh no! That’s not the problem at all. I am proud to identify myself as an Indian American, and find it a privilege that Desi families want to speak with me! It is when “Desi Aunties and Uncles” want me to tell their child (who is sitting right next to them) during our advising session, that they should be a Pharmacist!
After reviewing grades, PCAT scores, and extracurricular actives, I often find that many of them don’t have a clue as to why they want to become a pharmacist, only that their parents want them to be one. As the parent(s) are staring at me, looking for approval that this is the right path for their child, I find it difficult to confidently tell them that their child may want to think of another career path – mainly because they have this unsaid expectation from me, the Desi Advisor, to tell their child they must go to Pharmacy school.
I am sure all parents have the best in mind for their children. They want you, the advisor, to only agree with them for this child’s best interest. But sometimes the child’s best interest isn’t Pharmacy School. Haven’t they seen 3 Idiots (completely different blog entry!)?
As a professional in Student Affairs, it is our responsibility to have a realistic conversation with the student regarding their aptitude and chance of acceptance to a higher professional degree program, like a PharmD degree. But this is difficult to do when Desi parents have unrealistic expectations that since you are “Desi” too, you will automatically agree that the best career choice for their child is the one they have chosen. They want you to be their confidant and encourage their child to apply to Pharmacy school, even though they may not be well suited for it and may ultimately fail.
I have struggled to reach a delicate compromise between being a professional and upholding Desi values. Desi values mainly begin with respecting your elders, i.e. Desi Aunties and Uncles.
In the past four years I have come to the conclusion that the trick to this balance is to listen. Help both the Desi student and Desi parent(s) have a conversation. This is not always easy, but in my experience it has helped many students and parents have a safe dialog about their future. In the end, I am happy Desi families are excited to know there is a Desi Advisor at the College of Pharmacy!
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!