Commentary: Anxiety of a new student coming to America 


As I landed on U.S .soil in the August of 2021 to start my high school journey in an American academic setting, amidst the excitement of living the “Big American Dream,” my mind was battling a niggling fear. The news of hate attacks against the Asian American community in mainstream U.S. media, including top newspapers like the New York Times and The Washington Post, had gripped my thoughts even before starting the journey from India.

There were stories about Asians being attacked on US streets, in restaurants, and their houses and cars being vandalized and attacked. Guess what? For having the tag of Asians, many Americans, most of whom were motivated by the politically polarized beliefs and partisanship after then U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted and linked coronavirus to China, calling it #WuhanVirus.

Earlier in October 2022, my fears came to haunt me again with the news about 14 Indian origin women attacked by a US man in the Santa Clara County, California. The man accused of attacking the 14 Indian women, allegedly committed it during a two-month crime spree that started in June, reports said. The crime was so serious that the District Attorney Jeff Rosen confirmed the attacks saying, “I say to our South Asian community that anyone who targets and attacks you will be arrested and treated with the utmost severity under our law.” According to a key Indian diaspora organization, Hindu American Foundation, the attacks were initially recorded as `anti-South Asian’, and were re-categorized as `anti-Hindu hate crimes’ by the District Attorney.

This and many such hate attacks against Indians and Asians in America, which got intensified after the COVID-19 pandemic belittle the status of America as a mecca for democracy and diversity. My family, including me, were over conscious to avoid any such unfortunate incident upon our arrival in the U.S. We were worried over the news reports, one of them in the New York Timesabout how Asians were seeking therapy due to the stress of attacks and stigma they faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Equally concerning was to hear about the racist bullying of Asian school-going students. A lot of them had not gone to school for a longer duration due to the trauma of being stigmatized as Asians and for fear of race attacks. According to Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI), from March 19, 2020 to September 30, 2021, a total of 10,370 hate incidents against Asian American and Pacific Islander persons were reported. Most affected were Chinese and Korean families, who were attacked for similar facial features and linked to Wuhan for what President Donald Trump termed it as “WuhanVirus.”

As I stand at the cusp of beginning my new academic journey in the U.S. universities, my fears may be the same as for many Indian origin students aspiring to come to the US for higher studies. Perhaps, India and the U.S., which together have started their robust education diplomacy, must lay thrust as how to allay fears for a vast students’ population, who are actually the cultural ambassadors for both countries.

Yesho Vir. Photo: courtesy Yesho Vir

The writer is a Grade 12 student in Bethesda Chevy-Chase High School in Bethesda, Maryland.




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