International students and immigrants have been the secret ingredient in America’s recipe for global success.
Irvington resident Rajika Bhandari’s new memoir, “America Calling: A Foreign Student in a Country of Possibility,” shares one immigrant’s story, a tale that reflects millions more, and suggests that preventing the world’s best and brightest from seeking the American Dream will put this country’s future at risk.
Each November, International Education Week, a federal government initiative launched in 2000, recognizes the important role international students play in U.S. society: Each year international students contribute almost $40 billion to the U.S. economy and help generate over 400,000 jobs; they help internationalize American college classrooms across the country; and the 570 current or former heads of countries that have studied in the U.S. help forge diplomatic and global ties with other countries.
Growing up in India, Bhandari had seen generations of her family look westward, where an American education meant status and success. But she resisted the lure of America because those who left never returned; they all become flies trapped in honey in a land of opportunity.
As a young woman, however, she follows her heart and a relationship—and finds herself heading to a university in North Carolina to study. As she works her way through America’s tangled web of immigration, Bhandari lands in a job that immerses her in the lives of international students from over 200 countries and the universities that attract them.
A narrative that explores the global appeal of a made-in-America education that is a bridge to America’s successful past and to its future, “America Calling” is both a personal story of Bhandari’s search for her place and voice, and an analysis of America’s relationship with the rest of the world through the most powerful tool of diplomacy: education.
Firoozeh Dumas, New York Times’ best-selling author of “Funny in Farsi: Growing up Iranian in America,” says that “Books like this make America a kinder and wiser nation. … highly recommended for high schools and colleges,” and Andrew Hamilton, president of New York University, says, “As an immigrant with an educational background that spans two continents myself, I see an element of universality in Bhandari’s narrative that transcends culture and national origin.”
Bhandari writes in the book that, “My experience and that of the million students who come to the U.S. has also been the pathway for much of America’s global talent, whether it was Nobel Prize laureates or doctors working in a rural part of the country, or Kamala Harris’ parents who arrived in the U.S. as international students — her mother from India and her father from Jamaica — or Obama’s father who also came to the U.S. as a foreign student from Kenya. The relationship between the U.S. and the world depends on this flow of education and knowledge, a delicate dance in which other countries sometimes give more and the U.S. leads and other times when other countries gain more and the U.S. cedes, but in which each needs the other.”
America Calling is available at Amazon.com and Bookshop.org. Learn more at rajikabhandari.com.