Bridging Two Homes at Starbucks: From Udaipur, India to San Francisco

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Syona Puliady

B.A., International Studies ’17

Syona traveled to India as a participant in the 2016 summer cohort of the Privett Global Scholars program.

It’s 2 a.m. and I am sitting in a 24 hour Starbucks writing a final paper on something I didn’t feel extremely passionate about. I have been awake for quite a few days now, and I don’t recall ever being so stressed in my life. I’m on my fourth cup of coffee and the last thing I want is to talk to anyone. But as always, whenever one asks life for something not to happen…it has to happen.

An elderly woman sits in the chair across from me. She eats a bagel while her eyes linger on me. I don’t want to be rude, but I am also so overwhelmed by my schoolwork that I don’t particularly want to engage in conversation with her either.

“Hello,” she says after exchanging a few minutes of silence. I mumble back “hi” and give her faint smile.

“Are you Indian?” she asks. I hesitated. This has always been a complicated question for me, and I generally have never enjoyed attempting to figure out an answer. Burdened by many negative stereotypes the West has constructed about India coupled with my family’s deepening resentment for it, my relationship with India has been slightly more than complicated. Having spent a majority of my life struggling with my ethnic identity, it has always felt strange trying to package all of these sentiments into a single, easy to digest sentence.

“Well…I guess so, yeah,” I started, “I was born in the States, but the rest of my entire family was born and raised in India. I suppose one could say I lived there a bit—but I’m not sure that I consider myself Indian.” This is my short, extremely rehearsed version of my complex ancestry and heritage.

“Oh me too! I lived there for a little bit, I think I was in…Bombay? I don’t remember now…I am actually from Ethiopia—but I loved India. Even though I don’t remember much of it, I will never forget all of its colors.”

I laugh. I begin to tell her more about my own personal loves for India. We both came alive in this conversation about our short lived experiences in a place on the opposite side of the globe. My schoolwork lay abandoned on the table between us as we both fondly recalled our favorite parts of India. My new friend was fixated on the colors.

“There are just so many colors! Everywhere you go, everything you see—it’s all so colorful!” she closes her eyes tightly, as if she is attempting to recreate her childhood’s imagination of what she had once seen. “Those colors…I think they are only so beautiful because they mimic the vibrancy of life in India,” she says to me. And I couldn’t agree more.

I bring this story to you because it was a moment in my life that really struck me—it was something so special to me that I carried the memory everywhere I went while traveling and working in India. It was only because of this conversation that I could finally see the beauty of my own motherland. Everywhere I looked and everything I felt was so full of color, full of vibrancy, full of life.

This conversation carried each and every memory I collected in India back with me to the U.S. It was so powerful to me that it could delicately bridge the gap between my two homes without causing more confusion within me. While this memory occurred before I started my journey back to India, it definitely set a precedent to how I would come to terms with going back to something that had always left a sour taste in my mouth.

I definitely tend to forget that there is still so much for me to learn, here in the United States. People seem so curious about life in other countries, that it seems as if we forget that many of our curiosities can be found here—right at home. But even on a more global scale, I’m always taken aback at how little I seem to appreciate the intimacy of human nature and companionship. I always feel so lost in the fast pace stresses of everyday life that I often forget that some of the best moments can be as simple as a conversation between two strangers at two in the morning.

 

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Introducing our Fall 2016-17 USF in Washington, D.C. Fellows

USF in DC participants are undergraduate students selected for a semester-long program in Washington, DC that integrates a full-time internship with relevant coursework taught by USF faculty and University of California Washington Program (UC DC) faculty. Students choose from a range of elective courses and internship opportunities that meet their interests and skill sets and spend their semester engaging with peers from across the country in the heart of the capital, where they will live, learn, and explore all that DC has to offer. Meet our current cohort of USF in DC students and learn about their hopes and expectations for the coming semester.

 

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Ali DeFazio ’18

Internship: Brookings Institution

Ali DeFazio is a junior at the University of San Francisco. While in D.C., she will be interning for the Brookings Institution, voted “Best Think Tank in the World” for the last nine years by the Global Go To Think Tanks Report. Ali says that getting to the front of the bagel line before the 8 AM crowd is the “Best Feeling in the World” voted by USF students. In addition to her internship in D.C., Ali plans to make it on the background of NPR’s “Live in Concert” and go to every Smithsonian.

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Sydney Abel ’17

Internship: Department of Homeland Security – Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Sydney Abel is a senior this year at USF, majoring in Politics, minoring in Legal studies. When she isn’t playing rugby for USF’s champion woman’s team, you can find her slack lining at Golden Gate Park or walking along one of San Francisco’s many beaches. An avid traveler, Sydney transferred to USF from San Diego but not before she studied abroad for a year in Maastricht, Netherlands. Someday she would love to be voted into a public office, or just travel the world. Never one to miss a traveling opportunity, once she heard about USF in D.C., she knew that this program was just right for her. Eager to change the world for the better, she wants to learn everything there is to know about Washington and the political process.

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Guadalupe (Lupita) Garcia ’18

Internship: Revolution Messaging

Lupita Garcia is a Sociology Major and triple minor in Criminal Justice, Public Service and Community Engagement, and Chican@-Latin@ Studies. While in D.C. she will be interning with Revolution Messaging as a Digital Strategy/Client-Service intern where she will be working on advertising projects for campaigns using mobile messaging and social media. Through her participation in USF in D.C., she hopes to gain the skills that will prepare her to gain a career in public policy advocacy and continue to cross borders and discover home.

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Gabbi McDaniel ’17

Internship: UN Population Fund

As a senior International Studies major, Gabbi McDaniel will be applying her USF education in the field as an intern for the UN Population Fund. USF in D.C. will allow her to pursue her ideal internship, take classes on politics and advocacy, and develop a network within our Nation’s capital. She is looking forward to experiencing everything Washington D.C. has to offer especially during a Presidential election.

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Diana Conteras Chavez ’17

Internship: Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund

This fall Diana will be interning with the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund. She is excited to learn more about immigration policy and advocacy in D.C. Since it is her first time in D.C., Diana is thrilled to see the monuments and museums, and try out all the new brunch spots!

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 Tara Kahn Sac ’17

Internship:  Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi

Tara Khan is currently pursuing a degree in International Studies with a minor in Middle Eastern Studies and focus in Global Politics & Societies. Following graduation, she hopes to relocate to Washington D.C. and work for the U.S. government while also studying for the Foreign Services test. She is spending her semester in D.C. working on Capitol Hill, interning for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Working in the House of Representatives has been an extremely rewarding and eye-opening experience, none of which would have been possible without the Newmark Scholarship. Being a Newmark Scholar has convinced her that she made the right choice in her decision to pursue a career in politics.

 

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Assala Mami ’18

Internship: Center of American Progress

Assala is a Politics major with a double minor in Legal Studies and French Studies. She has an interest in foreign affairs and public policy and is excited to get to know the political scene in D.C. While in the  nation’s capitol, Assala plans to visit all the monuments and museums, of course and take trips to neighboring states.

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