Christopher McCandless truly said, “The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and therefore there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”
When I was a teenager, the West seemed, as always, the epicenter of possibilities and opportunity. Through this article, I would like to share my experience as a young immigrant in the Western world over the past 20 years. I was only fifteen years old when my parents decided to move our base from India to the USA. Being a young teenager, like all people of that age, I was very excited about the idea of immigrating and becoming an American citizen, exploring that part of the world that I read so much in books. Coming from the armed forces, my life has always been adventurous and fast-paced with exposure to the many countries, cities, cultures and the wonderful diversity that is India. Like all of the Fauji (Army) children, as they are called, I lived in an adventurous but protective environment where we were somehow pampered to the core with the comfort, safety, and joys of life on earth. I loved that life.
I finished my board exams and first traveled to UK for vacation which was amazing and magical as it was my first international experience and then I got to my dream destination in USA. The first few weeks were a dream, everything was fine, we vacationed in Washington, Orlando and Seattle. Then we slowly began to get into the realities of life and the challenges of new immigrants. I attended a school where I felt lonely and strange because my accent was different from most other languages and I could not understand the spoken language of many students and vice versa. My way of thinking and the concept of my education in public school was very different in India, but my teachers soon began to understand the power inherent in my educational knowledge base, including the grammatical correctness of written English that my classmates lacked. Besides, I joined a summer job at the airport where we were supposed to help passengers with all manners, language, disability, location orientation, etc. Tipping $5. I took the money but as soon as I got home, I shouted from my heart to my father saying that in India we provide for the poor, here I receive a tip. I was feeling small. My father tried to explain to me that this is the culture here and there is nothing wrong with it, this is the way to show tact, but I was very upset to understand at the time. So this was my first experience in the new western culture. My work ran through the summer, and I still remember by the end of the summer if I didn’t tip, I would get upset because I didn’t make enough pocket money. I met an elderly man at work who I learned had just retired as Boeing’s senior manager.