Month: October 2022
Hello Everyone! Meet Lavleen Kaur Madahar (she/her). She is a first-year student who is looking to concentrate in International and Public Affairs. She is considering going into immigration law as she is very interested in social justice and change.
How are you? Feel free to interpret that how you wish.
In this moment, right now, I am feeling pretty calm and chill. Generally, I’m a little stressed about school and the future. I feel like all of my friends have their life together and I don’t even know what path I want to take. I’m only a freshman and I know that logically if I think about it rationally, I’ll be fine no matter what. But, just seeing everyone gunning for all of these different things makes me feel a little bit behind.
Tell me about who you are.
I’m Lavleen and I use she/her pronouns. I am from New Jersey, but I don’t identify as a New Jersey-er or Jersian. I was born in New York so I am a New Yorker at heart. I wasn’t raised in New York, I only lived there for a few years after I was born. I moved around a lot as a kid so I have lived in 4 to 5 different places. Currently, I am in New Jersey.
I am the oldest child of 3. I have a younger brother who is 12 years old and a younger sister who is 16 years old. I am ethnically Punjabi. I practice Sikhi, which is a smaller Dharmic religion from South Asia. I like to read. I have read over 90 books in just 2022. I haven’t been reading a lot since I got into Brown. I feel like I haven’t read a single book at Brown. At home, I always had time for myself, but here, I am always doing something else, like with friends and such. Because of this, I haven’t had time to sit down and take time for myself, but I still love to read. That’s something I like to do a lot.
My favorite book is called The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. It’s a book about a South Asian immigrant family and I relate to it a lot. The story is about a boy who was born with the name Gogol, but he changes his name to Nikhil and goes by Nik. There’s a long backstory to it but the gist is that he was bullied for his birth name and it caused many assimilation issues. This is something that he and a lot of children of immigrants face, which is something that I kind of relate to too. I think my name is not hard to pronounce nor is it something that people would necessarily make fun of, but it stands out a lot. This is why I related to him in trying to balance assimilation and keeping your culture alive.
How has your transition to college life been so far?
I did a pre-orientation program called TWTP (Third World Transition Program) and through that program, I was able to make many friends. My friend group right now consists primarily of people from TWTP and a few others who joined us. I would say that we all have pretty similar backgrounds. The majority of us are children of immigrants, and people of color, and have similar socio-economic backgrounds. We share many similar experiences.
That has helped make the transition a lot smoother, but it was still difficult to see how different people can be. For example, in my class discussions, the students are able to articulate so well and I can’t. I’m not good at it. So imposter syndrome is definitely one of the things that is pulling me back a bit right now. I always try to deal with things on my own at first but my friends have helped a lot with dealing with this issue. This is a very small thing, but, for example, in my class, we had a debate and my group chose me to represent our team. I didn’t want to do it but they forced me into the position. I think I did well though. The professor complimented me afterward and was wondering if I was a debater. I think small things like this that have helped me get out of my comfort zone have helped a lot. I think the experience helped me with my public speaking fear.
In what ways have the identity groups at Brown helped shape your experience?
TWTP helped introduce me to a lot of different groups on campus, including the U-FLi center, SASA (South Asian Student Association), SSA (Sikh Student Association), and the BCSC (Brown Center for Students of Color). These four groups are places I go to a lot. It is nice to know people who are from the same cultural or religious backgrounds. It is also nice to just know people who share similar identities and experiences as me. It felt like I have already known these people for a long time. Recently, I went to lunch with a few people from SSA and we all bonded over the food and our culture. We were all homesick yet happy to be able to have some independence. Overall, I am really glad to have people or groups here that can support me.
What does being U-Fli mean to you?
To begin, here’s some family history: In the 70s/80s, my grandfather, one of the few people I look up to, worked on a ship that he traveled the world in. At one point, he ended up on the west coast of Canada and jumped off the ship. He then crossed the border from Canada to the United States and briefly lived in the U.S undocumented until Reagan granted residency to a few million immigrants, including him. That’s my family’s experience with undocumented status but it is because of him that we are all now here.
I am also first-generation, so applying to college was a weird thing for me. I didn’t think that it would be as hard as it was but because I am the oldest, I had no guidance at all. It was just me and google. My high school counselor had so many students to look after since I attended a big public high school so that just left me navigating everything on my own. I am still doing that a bit right now, but I am trying to reach out to more resource centers since there are a lot of them here.
Even though it is hard, I like being first-generation because it has taught me so much. It has taught me how to find resources on my own and how to be independent rather than dependent on others. Also, my parents are proud of me. They don’t know much about college either so when I was accepted into Brown they weren’t really aware of what it meant. Afterward, they began to show their support in the smallest of ways such as finding articles about Brown or the Ivy Leagues and sending them to me. They were so cute about it. Whenever they call me, they don’t ask about my classes, but rather they ask if I am happy. They always say they just want me to be happy.
What are some things that you hope to accomplish during your time at Brown?
Personally, I want to make lifelong friends. I have always moved around a lot so I have never been able to have a childhood best friend or anything close to that. I just want a lifelong friend that I can always go back to. As for academics, I just want to graduate lowkey. But I also want to take advantage of many of the resources here because I wasn’t able to have those opportunities in the past. There are a lot of resources, almost to the point of becoming overwhelming, that I never knew I could have access to. So I want to do this and that, trying to do as much as I can but also taking care of myself mentally. I also want to definitely get involved more with the Providence community. Back home I was always involved in my town with politics and community service so I want to be able to do the same here in Providence.
It’s been a while since we’ve introduced someone new as part of the Community Narrative Project! Meet David Castillo-Moreira, a current junior concentrating in International & Public Affairs – Policy & Governance.
Tell me a little about yourself.
My name is David Castillo-Moreira. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. Originally, I’m from Downtown L.A. but moved to South L.A. and I currently live in Central L.A. I’m a junior concentrating in IAPA, which is International & Public Affairs. I’m considering double concentrating in Economics. My family is from Ecuador and I am a first-generation college student.
The open curriculum drove me to apply to Brown because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I had a sense of what my interests were, but at the same time, I was interested in learning about the different courses and concentrations that Brown had to offer. The open curriculum was the perfect way for me to do so. From there, I gained an interest in law, government, and business. My future career path falls in line with one of those three sectors.
As for my free time, I really enjoy running, getting outdoors, taking photos, and listening to music. Most of the time I’m caught in my own thoughts. I’m very independent and do my own thing, but I also love being in groups.
Where do you see yourself after Brown?
That’s a good question. I’ve thought about it. I’m the type of person that looks into the future, constantly making new plans, making new schedules, and always looking for the next thing. I always want to have something to work toward, otherwise I feel a bit lost.
I have always considered pursuing graduate school, whether that’s Law school or Business school. I want to attain a JD (law degree) or an MBA (business degree). Beyond that, I see myself working. Now that I’ve been at Brown for over 2 years, I kind of fell in love with the East Coast. Here I’m constantly traveling from city to city, whether it’s DC, New York, Boston, or Hanover in New Hampshire. I’m constantly all over the place so I see myself moving to the East Coast, possibly moving to one of the major East Coast cities. Doing what? I don’t know, but I see myself moving over and starting a life around here.
What are some things that help keep you grounded?
It would definitely be my family and friends. I say that because they’ve been big support systems throughout now and college. Just in life in general.
For example, I’m really close to my brother. Whenever I have events, whether it’s running a marathon or a half-marathon, or I’m struggling with a specific course, or I just have a random question, or I just want to hang out, he’s there for me. I always reach out to him, to my parents, to my grandmother because I think, for me, it is really important to feel heard but at the same time know that they’re doing okay and for them to know that I’m doing okay. It makes being a college student much easier, knowing that I can just focus on my classes and academics and simultaneously remind myself why I’m here and what my objectives are here.
And again, my friends, even though I don’t have my family nearby, my friends are a reflection of my family. They have similar values and thought processes. I can relate to them really well, so whenever we go out to eat or hang out or just study, it helps keep me grounded. So my friends and family are very important to me.
How have your personal values helped you navigate your experience at Brown?
In general, I would say that I am a very motivated person. I say that because it takes very little incentive for me to do something. Whether that’s running, academics, or just life in general, I’m a very motivated person so when someone tells me I can’t do something it increases my drive to prove them wrong.
Apart from commitment and motivation, I feel like honesty is a big part of who I am. I like to have open communication with whoever I am speaking to. I want to make sure I’m on the same page as them and that has played a role when communicating with my professors, my classmates, and in projects. I like to make sure that I am always open with them.
In general, I am also a very loyal person. I value the people that I let into my life and I try to make sure that they know it. If I commit to someone as a person, I’ll do my best to do whatever they need from me and go from there.
What community at Brown has been influential in making it feel like a home?
I would say it’s a combination of various communities. I’m not part of Latinx housing but this year I have become closer to that community. It has helped me find people that have similar backgrounds to mine. I was a bit timid and shy during my freshman and sophomore years. I was afraid that people would judge me and now I’m more confident, in the sense that I don’t care about what other people think. I want to do my own thing. I realized that having people from a similar background to mine has helped a lot with that.
I really enjoy running and I did a lot of running in high school. Apart from cross country, I did a program called Students Run L.A., which is actually the sweater I’m wearing right now. It involves marathon training and things of that nature for students in L.A. Apart from the running and staying healthy components of the program, Students Run L.A. was important to me because it instilled motivation in me to do things. My dedication to things, to different things, not only running.
I would say another specific group that has helped is the Run Club. Through the Run Club, I have been able to destress after classes by going for a run, meeting new people, playing music, and stuff like that. I feel like it has been a continuation of some of my best memories in high school and over to college so that’s why it has helped make me feel at home.
If there was a piece of advice you could give your first-year self, what would it be?
I touched a little bit on this in the prior question, but freshman and sophomore year I was very shy and timid. I was constantly thinking about what other people were thinking, which created a lot of anxiety for me. I would advise you not to care so much. You should just not care about what others think and do your own thing.
Now as a junior, even though it’s only been about a month, I have felt like I have really grown. I’m more confident and I do my own thing now. I make sure that I am doing things for myself and not for other people. I believe that’s a big part of it because freshman and sophomore year I was doing things to go with the flow and to just be part of it. Now I’m a bit grown up, in the sense that if I don’t enjoy something, I won’t do it.
Getting comfortable in your own skin and doing work you enjoy. I’d probably advise that.