Students Share Experiences Immigrating to the U.S.

Friday, June 7, 2019
 

Four GCC students opened up about the realities of the immigration experience, like homesickness and feelings of being torn apart into different worlds, during a panel discussion May 8 in the Library Multipurpose Room. 

The panel was planned as part of a discussion of The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, a 2003 bestseller. GCC’s Big Read event was sponsored by the New Alliance Foundation. 

The characters in the book, two generations of a Bengali-American family, struggle between tradition and modern living.  Delving into the theme of the story about Indian immigrants to the United States, the students, Ali Arfan, Babu Khatiwada, Asha Rani, and Basant Shaheen, compared the book to their own experiences.  Each came from different areas, but their shared experience as immigrants connected their stories. 

Arfan said that leaving all of his friends behind was heartbreaking, but embracing new things lifted him out of feelings of depression.  Once he started coming to GCC, Arfan said, he felt more comfortable.

Khatiwada, who moved to the U.S. from Nepal about eight years ago, said that he could see himself in the book.  When he arrived here, he was sometimes homesick, missing the familiarity of his surroundings and the festivals he enjoyed.  Having to work on the holidays he was used to celebrating was another difficulty he experienced. 

Like many immigrants, Khatiwada felt like he was starting over from scratch.  Having worked at hotels in Nepal, a hotel position made the most sense and he got a job at a Days Inn, but was earning minimum wage.  Khatiwada eventually moved into a job at a liquor store, often working 70 or more hours a week.  He decided to pursue a job in healthcare and, in 2015, he started in the nursing program at GCC and already has a job lined up after graduation.

“This is my dream life,” said Khatiwada, who is married and has two children.  “This is the real freedom for me.”