America Calling: Rajika Bhandari on Answering the Call
September 3, 2021
Hosted by Diane Dewey
America Calling : A Foreign Student in a Country of Possibility We talk about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, as our founding fathers declared, but is it for everyone? Growing up in middle-class India, Rajika Bhandari has seen generations of her family look westward, where an American education means status and success. But she resists the lure of America because those who left never return-they all become flies trapped in honey in a land of opportunity. As a young woman, however, she finds herself heading to a US university to study, following her heart and a relationship. When that relationship ends and she fails in her attempt to move back to India as a foreign-educated woman, she returns to the US and finds herself in a job where the personal is political and professional: she is immersed in the lives of international students who come to America from over 200 countries, the universities that attract them, and the tangled web of immigration that a student must navigate. An unflinching and insightful 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 deeply personal story of Bhandari's search for her place and voice, and an incisive analysis of America's relationship with the rest of the world through the most powerful tool of diplomacy: education. At a time of growing nationalism, a turning inward, and fear of the "other," America Calling is ultimately a call to action to keep America's borders-and minds-open. International students and immigrants have been the secret ingredient in America’s recipe for global success. America Calling shares one immigrant’s story, a tale that reflects millions more, and shows us why preventing the world’s best and brightest from seeking the American Dream will put this country’s future in jeopardy. At a time when immigration could not be more important, Drop In with us to hear firsthand the impact of coming to America -- both for the person and for our country.
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At Dropping In we’ll explore diverse stories about identity. By listening to others talk about their own path, ours becomes less fearful. Where are we now and how do we meet the challenges? Dropping In is a place of discovery. We might believe that our life experiences are uniquely our own. Yet there’s a community of people that are here to bear witness, to relate to, link arms with and support us. They join us on Dropping In, tackling subjects like breaking into your dream business, cultural differences, child abuse, mental illness, shamanism, gender search, religious shunning, and fitting in as a marginalized outsider. These can feel like lonesome tasks. How do others find their power? Listening to their personal truths validates our own. Drop into the conversation to find the common threads, your uniqueness and our shared experience as humans.
My most pressing question has always been about identity: Who am I? Growing up near Philadelphia with my adoptive family, my genetic identity was hidden. Then, my Swiss biological father, Otto, contacted me when I was age forty-seven in 2002. I’d been told by my adoptive parents that my biological parents were dead, supposedly to protect me. Meeting Otto upended my life. Through him, I met my German biological mother’s family to discover that her story too, had been changed; that she’d not wanted to surrender me and she’d searched for me all her life. Finding my truth was essential.
Based on my experience I am excited to talk to people about their own search for identity. My education includes a BA from Villanova University, a certificate from the Art Institute of Philadelphia and a Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling from Capella University. I’ve worked for The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The SoHo Partnership and the National Academy of Design and have studied writing through New York University’s Continuing Education program. As an entrepreneur, I founded my art appraisal business, The Realization of Art in 2006. My non-fiction writing has been published in Shared Space, a monograph, and in Artes online magazine. Writing workshops worldwide have given me the chance to learn and hone my craft. My first book, “Fixing the Fates,” was awarded the National Non-Fiction Author’s Association Silver Medal and the Living Now Award.