Global Storyteller: Padmaroopa Kothandaraman

Padmaroopa Kothandaraman is a graduate student from India studying financial mathematics.

Have you traveled in your life?

I only came from India to here.

What has been the best part of your international experience?

Getting settled, learning about the culture here, and traveling around during vacation time. In India my mother never let me drive, and now I have my license. I was never even allowed to ride a bike, and now I can go on my own road trips. The interstate is especially exciting for me.

What has been the hardest part about your experience?

Well, India was luxurious to me in a way. My mother did everything for me, and here I have to do everything on my own. Living with friends was a little hard, especially during vacations going back to an empty apartment was not the best feeling.

How has your life changed after traveling?

I have taken ownership of my own life. I don’t need to ask anyone about my decisions. There are a lot of opportunities out here. My school in India never had activities, such as swimming. Here I have a new platform to explore many different things, including my new hobby: swimming! Back in India I would only go from home to school, but now I’m on my own and have a lot more freedom. My life is not like a nine to five job. I wouldn’t have had all these experiences if I hadn’t left India.

What is something you have always wanted people to know about India?

We have great neighbors; it’s not like you don’t know people. There are lots of interactions and they know and acknowledge your existence. In India, you can also stop people on the street if you’re lost and anyone will help you. We also have a lot more festivals and holidays; we’re almost always out of school or work for them all throughout the year.

Was money an issue when thinking about traveling?

Of course, it was a major issue when coming from India. It’s more on us now than before in regards to the conversion rates. Students before were able to receive a stipend, but now it’s mostly for Ph.D. students, so there’s not as much support. We still want to come, because we don’t want to ever miss an opportunity.

What is your greatest struggle right now?

Finding a job – often I get in touch with good jobs, but once it comes to the question of whether or not I will need a sponsorship, the communication gets cut off.

What would you tell people planning to study internationally or travel for work or leisure?

Go for it! Moving anywhere for your own education is good and teaches you how to balance your life, and it is also a good opportunity to learn about yourself.

What are you most proud of today?

Typically, students who come from India are engineers. I took what’s called a “pure science,” and in India, what I’m majoring in isn’t something really to look up to. There was a lot of peer pressure, but I stood by what I wanted to do and continue to do so.