November 17, 2011
Reet Dhaliwal (Class of 2013) came to Rollins from India by way of New Jersey. After spending her first semester in the “bone-chilling cold” up north, she transferred to Rollins, where the warmth of the locale and the Rollins community made her forget about being homesick. It also didn’t hurt that the biology major quickly became involved in campus life. Now a junior, Dhaliwal is a major campus event coordinator in charge of organizing perennial favorites like Dance Marathon and LipSync. As the president of DESI, a cultural organization that celebrates South Asian cultures, she’s also helping to bring a bit of India to Rollins.
What was the hardest part about your transition?
The beginning was really hard for me, especially the first few weeks. I guess I missed home a bit too much, and I hadn’t really settled down here. But with time, I met more people, made more friends and since then it has been all good. Rollins has a way of keeping you so involved that you forget about what you’re missing. People at Rollins are really helpful and nice and they make the transition seem fairly simple.
Do you consider the U.S. home now or will India always be home for you?
For me, home is where my family is. So it will always be India, but Rollins is my home away from home. My friends here are my family, so I don’t miss home as much. For me the place really doesn’t matter, it is all about the people I’m with. If I am comfortable with the people around me, I am automatically comfortable with the place.
When traveling abroad, everyone has those ah-ha moments when an aspect of the culture or some other detail came to life. Tell me about one of those moments for you and how it was different knowing that you wouldn’t be going back to India at the end of the week.
As a student in India, I used to have dozens of questions while attending a class. The cultural norms made it difficult to ask the teacher to re-explain or address those issues. During one of my early didactic class, I noticed that the professor would watch the expressions on the student’s face to ensure that we had understood the point and encourage discussion or clarification of doubts. That was indeed an oh-my-God moment for me. It made learning so much easier, and fun.
What do you miss most about India?
What’s your favorite way to have fun on campus?
I love spending time with my friends, participating in various cultural and social activities and learning more about the cultures of not only the United States but also the many other countries represented in the student body.
I have been the president of DESI since spring 2011 and it been an amazing experience for me. My goal as the president has been to spread awareness of the Southeast Asian cultures and to create a “home away from home” experience for international students. My favorite part of the organization is getting to know new people and introducing them to the rich and diverse culture of that part of the world.
For example, a couple of weeks ago, DESI hosted Diwali, which is the equivalent of Christmas for the Indian culture. I was honestly surprised looking at the number of people who attended the celebrations. Everyone seemed to really enjoy the evening. Being able to celebrate it and share it with my friends at Rollins from around the world felt really good.
What strikes you as different between the culture you grew up with and the one in the U.S.? The one at Rollins?
The expectation for a child growing up in India is to remain focused on studies and class work. I took the time to involve myself in extracurricular and social activities though that was certainly not the norm. Practical experience, whether academic or functioning within a broader organizational capacity, that Rollins—and for that matter the U.S. educational system—offers is a pleasant contrast from the culture in which I grew up.
How would the atmosphere and culture of Rollins be different if it was located in India?
India is such a huge country with so many different states and cities that the culture and atmosphere would vary on the place Rollins is established in India.
What advice do you have for other international students who are considering Rollins or those who are still making the transition?
Make an effort …get involved!
A celebration of international exchange worldwide, International Education Week runs November 14-18. The joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education promotes programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and attracts future leaders from abroad to study, learn and exchange experiences in the United States. Learn what Rollins is doing in celebration of this week.
At Rollins, international recruitment has doubled since last year (from 4 to 8 percent), and admission officers will have visited 30 countries by the end of the fall recruitment season. Once students arrive, the Office of International Student & Scholar Services provides the opportunity for international students to acclimate to the U.S. college campus, learn their rights and responsibilities related to immigration status, build community and gain experiences and skills necessary to achieve academic and career goals.
By Laura J. Cole
Office of Marketing & Communications
For more information, contact email@example.com.