Poorva Arora is a senior who has called many places around the world her home.
Where is home for you?
I am from India, and my dad works for the Foreign Ministry in India. Because of his job, he’s constantly posted in different countries. Growing up, I’ve been posted to a different country every 3 or 4 years. So, I was born in Mynamar, and then we moved to the Netherlands where my brother was born. We moved to Candy, Sri Lanka after that, and then we were back in India for a couple years. Then, we moved to the States, so I lived in Virginia for a while. I graduated high school from Mozambique, where I went to the American International School of Mozambique. During winter break, I’m going back to London. I tend to go always go home, which is wherever my parents are.
People always ask me if I’m really Indian by heart, and I am. I speak Hindi. I’m obsessed with, OBSESSED with, Bollywood movies. I don’t know much about the American industry, but I know everything about the Bollywood industry. Yesterday, because I knew that we were talking today, I prepared by watching two episodes of Koffee with Karan.
What was it like going to an international high school?
I graduated high school from the international school in Mozambique. All the students were from embassies of different countries, or from South Africa, or from the UN. We were extremely diverse. One of my best friends was from Malaysia, and the other was from Tanzania. You’d think it be hard to get used to, but since we were all from somewhere else, we quickly adapted to the fact that we were not the same. It was a given that we were all different, and we just adapted to wherever we were living. You could ask them anything about where they were from, and they’d be super interested in your story as well.
At Vanderbilt, we constantly reflect on diversity, and its celebrated a lot. But in Mozambique, it was just automatic. We didn’t think about it. I think its because there was no majority population in the international school. Here, a lot of people haven’t been out of the country or interacted with people from different places. I don’t blame them, and that makes 100 % sense to me why it’d be harder to adapt to others who are different from them. But, that was never hard for me because what I’ve realized is, everybody is actually the same. All humans have the same emotions. They behave not that differently from each other. We all have the same needs, we all want to be friends, and we all want to be successful. It just comes out differently based on where you’re from, the culture you’ve grown up in and where you’ve studied.
How did you retain your South Asian identity as you traveled the world?
What you’re asking was a very hard thing to do. I think a lot of it was because of my parents. They taught me our values and watched Bollywood movies with me and expected me to be a good, Indian daughter. But, it was also a source of huge conflict between my mom and me. I’d go to school, and it’d be a completely different environment. I’d go outside, and it’d be different, and then I would come home and it would be different, too. So, its the typical story of a 3rd culture kid where I had an identity crisis. It was a big question for me growing up, because I just didn’t know who I should be. I would change. I’d be a different person at home and outside. And, I didn’t want to be that person. I wanted to be one person.
My parents and I just had to make adjustments. I’d never do anything they didn’t want me to do, but I’d be like, “Hey mom, can I wear these shorts, please? Is it okay?” and we’d have to negotiate. That’s one thing I’d have to fight with my mom about, like wearing a strapless dress to prom. Simple things became problematic, but with time we adjusted, and we retained our culture. I celebrate all our festivals, and I give a lot of importance to what happens at home. And, my parents have given me the opportunity to adapt and be flexible.
You’re President of Vandy Karma. What does your Hindu faith mean to you?
Being at home, you don’t realize how surrounded you are by religion. My mom prays every day, and if nothing, I will listen to her. Or, they’ll play religious music, and you’ll listen to it in the house. But, at Vanderbilt, no one is doing it for you. It’s not systematically there, and I missed it. It helped centralize me and believe in something bigger than me, and I think that’s important. Simple things like going to the temple or lighting diyas help me relax and feel more at home. It’s a belief system that gives me support. I don’t label myself as extremely religious, but I like having the connection, and on campus it has to be intentional. I don’t know too much about the religion, like my parents would. Do I believe in God? Yes. But, do I know that much about it and all the different prayers? No. Sometimes I have to force myself to pray for even five seconds a day. But, I still believe.