Prashansa Dickson is a senior studying psychology at Goshen College, from Delhi, India.
What made you want to take the leap and go to school in the United States rather than go to school in India?
I went to an international boarding school in India. Woodstock School is much closer to an American high school that to an Indian high school. Most of the students who graduate from Woodstock go to American college or British college. It’s mostly because that transition is easier than transitioning into your native country’s college.
What was your first time in the U.S. like?
I think it should have been a lot scarier than it actually was. I was traveling alone. I had never traveled out of the country alone before. I remember memorizing the way to get from the airport to the bus that takes you from Chicago to South Bend. I didn’t really have a means of communicating with anyone because I didn’t have a phone since it was my first time in the country. Fitting in here wasn’t really that hard because I went to boarding school, so I knew what it was like being away from my parents.
What was the hardest thing you had to adjust to?
I was like “Whatever. I know what America is like. I watched ‘Friends.’” It was a good thing for them to do, but the one thing they didn’t cover was the food. The food is so different here. I kept waiting for the rice and the flavors. All these new foods I’d never really eaten like pie, sauerkraut and casseroles were fine, but I never experienced them before. Also, how much people like salad here is really weird. We eat vegetables, but not raw vegetables because I feel like a goat. Nobody really explains to you how difficult the food transition will be and how much food is tied into feeling comfortable in a place, and how alienating it is to not have comfort food.
What’s the weirdest/most different thing you think about America/Americans/American culture?
There’s no public transportation here. Maybe a little bit more in the eastern part, but the whole country is not connected by public transportation. Which seems like a really weird thing for a country that is so advanced. It’s weird for me there’s not a centralized railway or bus system to get from here to there in a comfortable train. I come from a country that’s very interconnected railway-wise, and it’s all run by the government. There are no privately owned railroads. That’s so different. Everything is so privatized here.
What are some of the things you enjoy here you don’t experience at home?
One of the things I discovered from being at Goshen was that I could completely be who I wanted to be. I could dress however I wanted. I can have whatever opinions I want. I can be completely feminist. I can actively support gay rights. I went home twice in the last year, and it’s ridiculous how much I can’t do there, just because of the kinds of repercussions I would get. These things were difficult to relearn when I went back to India. I wanted to forget them or romanticize them in my brain.
Do you do anything that may be considered normal to do at home that isn’t ‘normal’ here?
Just simple things. You eat with your hands at home and you don’t do that here. Most people have maids in India even though you’re not wealthy. It’s part of the culture. We are not wealthy in the least, but we have three people—one person washes all our dishes, one person cooks all of our food, and one person sweeps the house. Once, I was feeling righteous and asked my mom if we could get a dishwasher and not have a maid. My mom said, “I’m giving somebody employment, so I’m going to keep doing that.” It’s built into the culture. I grew up being waited on, and it’s just different now to have to do things for myself because I had such a high quality of living, but from a third-world nation. It’s a weird clash.