Sitting down at the Veggie Grill restaurant in Santana Row, tummies full from a salad bowl (not that great but you feel nice and full afterwards), in front me sits a young girl. She wears thin framed dark glasses, her cut straight short into a mid length bob and behind the frames, patient eyes stare back at me.This is Mira. Former classmate, long time friend and international student.
Mira Ashvina Segaran, 19, Environmental Engineer (subject to change) hails from Malaysia’s, arrives to De Anza College, California, U.S.A. experiencing everything from trashy food, De Anza’s curriculum, friendships and the true meaning of home.
“Ohh scary” she said, as I flip the iPhone toward her direction. I’m recording the interview as I always do but I’m taking notes simultaneously to get a better hand at taking notes while interviewing. Multi-tasking. She’s a little nervous, I see her looking at me, concerning maybe but I want to keep the interview at ease and calmness as possible. I like it that way more, for the conversation and the moment to flow.
I pop my first question at her. “Are you in love?”
I like to start things easy at first.
She bursts out laughing, I’m only kidding, slightly, I tease her about relationships every so often when I get a chance to see her.
Saragan came to the United States on August 4, 2015. Almost two years ago. “I didn’t want to study at the universities back home (Malaysia)” said Mira. She began her U.S. trek when her father lived in the United States and studied there. “He inspired me to go study there” she said.
But once Segaran came to the U.S. in August, her parents had to leave and she stayed pursuing her education. She resided in a homestay with a woman in Saratoga. But to much of a Mira’s dislike, she did not enjoy her stay at home at all. “It was really dirty” Mira recalls, “She fed me chicken nuggets for dinner and there was always rubbish on the floor”.
She speaks to me with her eyes. I sense he power and the trails if not-of what she has been through. An international student even more someone in a entirely different country and school? What would Mira think? Looking at De Anza’s old Spanish style school with a mix of tall palm trees and enormous stocky redwood like trees. The impression. The difference.
“At first it was hard to make friends” Mira began, slowly moving her hands up and down, gesturing. “The International students, they are clique-y, so the click with their own country”. She gestures air quotes at this point. But she sees fit, “It’s our comfort zone, a home away from home you know”. Luckily, Mira bonded with a generous amount of friends from Malaysian friends. In fact her entire roommates are Malaysian.
But a bigger issues concerning Mira is the actual curriculum and college of De Anza. Unsatisfied and unfulfilled, the math and science classes are scarce at De Anza. Not to mention costing a pretty penny for MIra, like any other international student who pays more than a resident in California or out of state. Mira pays about “$20, 000 a year to about $4,000 per quarter”, and this includes the deadly registration waiting time, classes filling up beforehand and not so good academic instructors.
The conversation took an interesting turn as to Mira and the stigma of being an international student. “No, I don’t feel anything really. Even if do it’s really subtle. There’s really not a lot of racism here at De Anza but it’s different for every international student. Back home it’s very racist. ”. Mira continues, “Ben (roommate) says there’s a lot of racism here but he isn’t used to it like the way I am. They don’t really understand it and it affects me more”.
My radar ears perk up at housemates and Ben. Mira of course brushes off my once again jab at her and her roommate. “You get used to them after awhile. Sometimes you’ll get mad at them but after awhile it starts to feel like family”.
Ben, her housemate, comments “I met Mira in a Malaysian gathering brunch at Valley Fair. We got closer when we started taking math class together and having the same lunch break for almost everyday.It was hard at first because shes a clean freak, but then we all kinda got used to each other. Mira’s a pretty chill housemate”.
To Mira, it’s true friendship, something hard to come by at the States, and can be “superficial” with “fake friends”. But with her roommates, it’s something different, “I’m going to miss them so much, they are gonna transfer out soon. They are trying to get into UCLA. Hopefully they’ll get in”. Her smile, her eyes light up and her sense of pride radiates off her. A proud tearful mother on her sons graduation. She looks back at me, catching my gaze. “But I’m happy. To be here” said Mira.