Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Life > Experiences

The Art Of Representing A Country As An International Student

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Nanyang Tech chapter.

Being an international student comes with roles you never knew you signed up for. One, for instance, is the role of being a representative for your entire country. Suddenly, people look to you for the recipe for a gulab jamun rather than the internet. When you stand there and suddenly realise that you don’t really know how to make a gulab jamun, let alone name all the ingredients that go into a gulab jamun, you realise you might have set yourself up for failure in the role of being a good representative of an entire country. 

Gulab jamun is my favourite Indian sweet, but not once in my twenty-two years in India did I ever attempt to make it on my own, It was not just the gulab jamun though, India is known for its plethora of sweets, and every time I needed to satisfy a craving for one, I would head down to the shop next door. Looking back now, I grew extremely complacent about having the sweets at arm’s length from home at all times. I now realise this complacency extended to a lot of things I took for granted, things way beyond food. 

A conversation about caste is one I am too familiar with. Although I grew up in a metropolitan city like Bangalore, the discussion and debate surrounding caste is one that came up often because India is so diverse. People’s experiences with castes are so varied because of this diversity, and so this conversation just had to come up. Societies in first-world countries, however, probably look at this and wonder why this is still a conversation. Caste was and still is crucial for us to navigate in a world that now acknowledges the evils that they were and still are. Evils that I have witnessed first-hand. However, when someone asks me a question about it in Singapore, “Is caste still a thing?” or “Why was caste a thing?” I am unsure about how to answer them.

While the conversation about caste and similar culturally unique things are ones I have never shied away from, explaining the history and reason behind these culturally unique things is something I have never had to do before. Back home, such knowledge was assumed to be known, and that assumption was something I had taken for granted. I am all for being brutally honest, especially about social evils, because I truly believe that being honest about them is what will help us as a society learn and grow from them. When I moved to Singapore and had a question about it posed to me, it was the first time I found myself at a loss for words. I was suddenly faced with a dilemma I had never faced before, and that was whether I should be honest about the extent of the cruelty caste sometimes was or paint a better picture of what home was to me.

The place I grew up in, to me, will forever be home no matter where I decide to spend the rest of my life at. Despite all the social evils, home was where I met my best of friends and what shaped all my ideals. It made me who I am today, and I am proud of that person. Of course, all the experiences, the good and the bad, had a part to play. Understanding the bad and its role in my life may be difficult, however, for someone who didn’t grow up with similar experiences to reconcile with that notion. They might simply take it wholly as ‘bad’, instead of understanding the little nuances.  Perhaps it was the fear of me being looked down upon or portraying a negative image of India (one that the silver screen does too often) was something I didn’t want to proliferate. Either way, I found myself wanting to explain and defend the bad.

Moving abroad, you only look forward to and think about all the new cultures and experiences you will get to learn about and be a part of. What I hadn’t thought about was how much I’d actually end up learning about home, even though I am away from it. In learning more about home, I find that I need not be insecure about where I come from. In the end, it was the experiences of home that allowed me to get to where I was and do what I love. Every country has a story to tell, but going forward, I cannot wait to share our story with the world, and not leave out a single detail because, hey, despite it all, I am standing in front of you with a voice loud enough to share that experience and show you how far we’ve come despite it all. 

PS – I now know what each and every ingredient is involved in the making of a gulab jamun, and I cannot wait to share that as well.

Sanjana Ramesh

Nanyang Tech '23

All queens must have their crown, well this one prefers hairbands. Sanjana is pursuing a degree in Electrical Engineering at Nanyang Tech and if she isn't out being a woman of STEM, she enjoys being a plant mom, kindle owner and K-Drama aficionado.