Cover Image: America Calling

America Calling

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Member Reviews

A moving depiction of what it means to feel out of place in a place that’s your home, Bhandari captures the experience of trying to find your way in a world that’s set against you.
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I liked this book. This was a great read, although initially, I found it a little hard to connect with it. A lot of emotions about leaving home and Indian parents has been portrayed well.
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Vivid storytelling and well-crafted (often cinematic) scenes describe the author’s unique journey to America, and her quest for belonging. This book builds a strong case for the value of overseas study and exchange programs for all students everywhere.

Indian-born author Rajika Bhandari arrived in America in the early 1990s as a PhD student in psychology. This book is a heartfelt and important memoir about her experiences as a foreign student navigating multiple identities. Although Bhandari self-identifies as light skinned compared with other people from India, she does not pass as White and experiences multiple instances of prejudice and micro-agreesssion. While fluent in English, Bhandari’s accent sets her apart from native speakers when she takes the podium to lecture at North Carolina State University. She also reluctantly discovers and acknowledges her own inborn prejudices about Black Americans. The author’s immersion into student life is a constant reckoning with biases born of her childhood culture juxtaposed with all that she discovers in America: food, housing, modern appliances, personal and intellectual freedom, learning to drive, empowerment as a career woman. 

The latter part of  *America Calling* delves into an academic analysis about (social and economic) values of international education, statistics about diverse visa categories, and uncertain futures of thousands of talented foreign students in cutting-edge research fields. Many international students have been sidelined by America’s visa policies in the aftermath of 9/11, during the Trump administration, and finally, by covid-19 travel restrictions.
The author asks what is to become of humanity if great minds are not allowed to meet, mingle and learn in international venues such as colleges and universities. 

For me, the strongest part of this book is Bhandari's particular journey as a young woman who faces her personal fears of “the other” and builds a career focused on international education. That said, the author fast-forwards through about 10 years of her life post-graduation, and I think this would be of interest to many readers and families who are living between cultures and borders.
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The author came to the US as a grad student in the early 90s, and studied at a state school in North Carolina. Initially, she came because that is where her boyfriend was studying.

Later in life, though, she starts working for the Institute of International Education, which compiles data and research on exchange students in the US and elsewhere. So the first two-thirds of the book is her own story and experiences as a student first, then as an immigrant seeking a work visa. The last third of the book is other stories she’s compiled through her current job, as well as stats and figures from the world of international education.

Some statistics that struck me:

International students add $45 billion to the economy yearly. (Most pay their own way, or are awarded scholarships from their own countries to study abroad. Then, they still have to buy furniture and groceries here, like the rest of us.)

Only one out of ten US students studies abroad. (Meaning that an international student on their campus here may be their only exposure to other cultures.)

One out of four founders of start-ups valued at $1 billion first came to the US as an international student.

Then there are the softer stats, like how so many students who study here and return to their home countries become advocates for US universities, or the US at large. They offer a large and vast network of unofficial diplomats in all areas of the globe. Bhandari mentions the Fulbright scholarship program as a shining example of this. The program offers both scholarships for international students to study in the US, and ones for US students to study elsewhere. Over its history, it has sponsored 400,000 students. 39 of those have gone on to become heads of state in their home countries, 60 have won Nobel prizes, and 88 have won Pulitzer prizes.

Her own experiences are no less interesting, of course, although not as easy to break down into small bites. A few things she touches on, though, include reckoning with how Asians are considered the “model minority” here. Realizing that the freedoms she enjoyed as a woman in America made her unfit to return to her home country. Having to push hard to get through her masters and doctorate programs in 6 years, because being here on a visa meant she had strict time limits and couldn’t take any breaks.

I had some exposure to international students when I was college-aged, and I appreciate knowing a little more about the issues surrounding studying internationally.
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Bhandari documents her experiences as an international student in the 1990s in the US. She also extrapolates on the importance of foreign students to the US economy and educational system. It was interesting to read about her diving into the unknown as a grad student and navigating the choppy waters of cultural differences. She makes some assertions about American society and politics that I didn’t agree with, but it wasn’t that big of a distraction. America continues to beckon to thousands of students, in search of their concept of America.
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This was so awesome and really opened my eyes to what it is to be an immigrant and how education in America is almost like your Willy Wonka ticket..or so many think.
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I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book was around 3.5 stars for me.

This is an interesting book. Bhandari shares her experience as an Indian woman with the US immigration system and being an international student. She shares how going to the US for graduate school changed her life and her perspective. She talks about life in the US post 9/11, navigating immigration and school, and feeling like a stranger in India and the US. Bhandari talks about the Holocaust and the partition of India that created Pakistan and what she knows about history.

On the one hand the story is interesting and Bhandari shares her own experiences that are both relatable and difficult. But there's also a lot that I felt like she glossed over - like when she compared the experience of a Black student in her program to her own experience. I don't want to belittle the authors experiences that were at times terrible, it just felt like at times she kept trying to say that South Asians are oppressed too and while it's true, it's arguably not to the extent of other oppressed groups in the US. I was surprised that she didn't talk more about the violence against South Asians in the US following 9/11 that lasted for years but focused on other, very specific instances of frustration or fear. Ultimately to me the ending wasn't super satisfying.  Bhandari gives some high-level reflection throughout the book but I was hoping for something more in depth and some closure that I don't feel like I got.
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Thank you to the author, She Writes Press and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This thoughtful and fascinating book is part memoir and part scholarly exploration of the how and why of international students. The author tells her personal story of how she more or less accidentally became an international student by following her fiancé from India to the USA. In doing so, she unpacks the expectations placed upon young women at the time in both cultures, and the cultural differences nothing could have prepared her for. She also experiences a common phenomena, going back to a home that is no longer familiar or welcoming, and which leads to her decision to make her permanent home in the USA. In the last part of the book, she looks at the impact that international students have upon a society, while also giving insight into the political relationship between the USA and the rest of the world, based on educational diplomacy.
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This is a book about leaving your own country to live and study abroad and the hardships as well as the advantages of this new life.  The author talks about the differences in the two countries, India (where she is from) and America (where she studied).  She talks of the hard times but also of the fun times and experiences she had.

This is a great book to read to understand what it is like to live away from your home, your country, your lifestyle and learning a new way of living to become a stronger person and therefore being able to help others on their chosen journeys too.

A great book, entertaining as well as informative and is well worth reading.
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I was so excited reading about the premise of this book being an international student myself and was intrigued to see the similarities and differences of our respective experiences. 

I was happy to realise as early on as the prologue that I was going to enjoy America Calling. Bhandari’s astounding intelligence was immediately clear to me and yet she still wrote in the most accessible way, which I’m particularly fond of because issues featured in this book needs to be understood by more people. The combination of anecdotes and shocking statistics conveyed Bhandari’s evident passion about the topics.

The book was split into three parts. The first covering the author’s experience moving from India to the US and all the joys, hardships and discoveries she made about not only America, but her home country too. The second painting her experience growing into the workplace and more issues on the tedious immigration laws of America. The third uncovering the truth about myths and stereotypes concerning Immigrants and international students. 

I loved that I was able to learn a lot about India’s general history and emigration history. I was stunned about Bhandari’s family’s experience in the partition and found that it was almost identical to that of someone very close to me. The way it is a common family history for people now residing in Northern India indicates a duty for everyone to learn more about what occurred. Also, I found it interesting to read about how moving away caused the Author to realise the racism and misogyny in India and the systemic racism, xenophobia and slightly quieter, but still very real sexism in America. I hadn’t heard of the African Airlift before and I’m excited to look into it even more. It was one of several examples proving how essential international students are for teaching Americans about places beyond their borders and providing great young minds for the workplace. 

I wish the second part of the book had been stretched out more because it spanned over a longer period of time, yet less is written about it and the stories and facts included in the second part was definitely my favourite part. In some areas it felt a little bit repetitive. 

I have definitely learnt a lot from this incredibly informative book and will certainly encourage people to read America Calling: A Foreign Student in a Country of Possibility when it is released.

Thank you so much to Books Forward for providing me with this ARC.
I would also like to thank Rajika Bhandari for writing a book that was such a pleasure to read.
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This book was incredibly thoughtful and honest. It shines a light on America's dependence on international students. But for the students give into America, they get not much in return. Going through American immigration is such a big struggle and the process of just getting a work visa or green card is really harder than it needs to be due to the perception that immigrants are stealing jobs from American born Americans(aka white people). Bhandari talks about the changes in who she is now versus who she was when she came to America and she's grown a lot. I really enjoyed reading her take on everything and it was clear how well researched this book was. Regardless, it was still very personal and it allows readers to connect with Bhandari's struggles and experiences.
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America Calling: A Foreign Student in a Country of Possibility by @rajika_bhandari 

The book is divided into three parts.
First, where the author leaves India to pursue her higher studies in America. How she managed her days there along with the tussel daily routine and struggling bureaucracy of visas, work permits, employment, green card issued.
Second, As leaving there there for six years thought of returning back to India and have a career there but unfortunately she wouldn't getting a deserving job as she preferred amd she learnt that while staying outside India made her views on India and America changed. 
Third, Rajika tired trying and then she applied to New York where she got approval and been many years in US now she's a mother who still want her daughter to study and research over different countries and cultures. 

In this book, you'll get to know the scholarly details, the history and confusing status of the US immigration system and how messier it got in recent days. 

I've never been to US or I don't think I'll ever atleast for my studies (crossed the age already) but only for vacation. So, this book is huge for gathering knowledge I liked it so much. I'll define the book as a autobiographical and a memoir. This book can be even used in school for teaching cause the book covers almost everything important from 9/11 to pandemic and how it messes up more with the immigration system. 

Highly recommended as it's worth reading. 
This book reminds me of @TasleemaNasrin @arundhatiroy.bbb to some extent. As I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. And also, it contains lot of politics and comparison between India and America. 

Read and reviewed voluntarily, opinions expressed here are unbiased and entirely my own. 

Thank you @NetGalley and @shewritespress for the #arc in exchange for an honest review.
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As a former u oniversity exchange student I found it really interesting to read about an international student who spent more than a year studying in another country. Reading about her experience when it comes to different cultures, languages and how it dirrered from her experience at home and her expectations of the US
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I have written a 3000-word review about America Calling, and I am currently pitching it to a variety of magazines..  Here is a truncated version of the piece:

Rajika Bhandari's America Calling: A Foreign Student in a Country of Possibility is beautifully written memoir that tries to present readers with a better understanding as to why Americans should once again embrace globalization.  The way Bhandari accomplishes this goal is to speak about her own experience while also connecting it to the experience of the millions of students wanting to get an education in what is still considered by many as a “beacon” and “as a country of possibility."  What makes America Calling different as a memoir is that Bhandari speaks about how the American education system and its immigration policies deeply connect with one another rather than the two being separate entities; she recognizes that the complex laws and regulations enacted by the United States government oftentimes affect both the individual’s sense of self-worth and a college’s enrollment/bottom line.

Much of America Calling is written in smaller chapters, which makes the work easy to digest; and, the clarity of Bhandari’s prose makes the work a quick and smooth read.  By writing in a very succinct and straight-forward way, it makes it simpler to teach readers about what is truly a complicated subject matter: the immigrant student experience in America.  To delve into such topics as racism, colonialism, sexism, religious freedom, and national policies (among other hard discussion points), while at the same time telling us about her failing relationship with her fiancé, her run-in with a psychotic and racist roommate, and her awkward experience going back to India to see her family (one of the more powerful moments in the book), is extremely difficult to juggle.    And yet, Bhandari does so with dignity, grace, and intelligence.  

What I primarily took away from Bhandari’s book is that even though we have our differences, we are all the same—we are human beings that need to be educated by other human beings, and we need to make sure we are doing so with care, with kindness, and with understanding.  As she says, “The confluence of bad immigration policies and a health crisis will not simply be a blip, a bad nightmare from which we will all wake up and after which thing will go back to normal.”  Instead, if the United States continues down this slippery slope, we will lose the world’s best and brightest, people like Bhandari who are true assets to America, and who are needed to show us how important education is to all, including the marginalized, the troubled, and “the wretched refuse of your teeming shore,” who just wants a fair shake in an unfair and cruel world.
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This was such an interesting book! I dont read a lot of non-fiction but I really enjoyed this one. Coming from a South Asian ( Indian ) ethnic background myself I can relate in theory and understanding to Rajika's journey. I did not have to go through the difficult journey of being an immigrant but my family did and as Rajikas explains in the book, the USA continues to be one of the top destinations for education and then finding work. The struggles that Immigrant students and their entire families go through from the paperwork, to financials, paying international fees, understanding the American Education and College Systems, the paperwork and fees and also emotional and mental strength they go through to keep their visa current and envisioning a future where they can convert it to a work visa are all detailed out in this book.

I think everyone could learn something from this book. Its a book about immigrants, education, love and loss, resiliency, political gain and nuances of our education and immigration system and so much more. Really enjoyed reading this book!

I thank Netgalley and She Writes Press for a advanced readers copy in exchange for my honest review!
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I wish to thank NetGalley and She Writes Press for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this book.  I have voluntarily read and reviewed it.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

This book is about a young girl from India who leaves her home to travel to the United States to go to college.  It details the hardships that she endured in receiving her education, her Visa and later her Green Card. She explains the general attitude towards people from outside the United States who are struggling to get an education here.  The book goes into detail about the positive results of furnishing foreign students with the opportunity to study here. So many of their country’s brightest students come here and never leave thus contributing much to this country in the way of finances, cultural growth and jobs  So many of the more desirable positions that our students are not able or willing to fill.  It was certainly enlightening to me. After obtaining her Doctorate and working here for a brief time, she returned to India to seek employment there. She was not accepted and certainly not offered salaries comparable to her education.  Being a woman was not respectable in the work setting at higher levels in India.  So, she applied for a position in New York, was hired and returned to America.  She is now the Director who oversees the lives of international students from over 200 countries.  From her personal experiences she is able to help these students navigate the maze of bureaucracy of graduating from these schools and leading productive lives.

I learned a lot and hope to be a better informed person because I read this book.  Thank you.
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As readers of my past reviews may remember, one of my biggest joys in life is hosting foreign exchange students in our home. As they are teenagers, I realize that they sometimes have difficulty explaining how they are feeling about different aspects of American life. 
I learned so much from this book! The author, having come to America from India as an exchange student many years ago, has now had the time and ability to explain things to me. Through the use of great writing and explanations, Bhandari has given me some wonderful insights into how they (she) was feeling! 
For example, her first experience with a chocolate chip cookie. Or being embarrassed about asking for ketchup with her pizza. Or with typing, or computers. Or the difference between Indian schools and American schools, and the interaction with the instructors. She explains all her feelings of embarrassment, inadequacy, and hesitancy. Her thoughts have given me a much better handle on how my students are doing/feeling. 
That alone was enough for me to fall in love with this book!
But there is so much more. Bhandari goes on to describe her journey, throughout college and into the working world. And of the obstacles she faced, and overcame. Of the fears of plagiarism (culturally different here in America), and of the perceptions of skin color she brought with her. It is quite an engaging story! And she lays it out so well. 
The second half of the book deals with her life's work helping other International students. And things about them that I did not realize. I found it to be enlightening. I do not think I will ever look at an International student the same way again. 
This is a great book. I highly recommend it to anyone questioning why America has so many International students, and of their roles. Also to any educator who deals with students from other countries. And to any foreign exchange student, past or present, to help them understand their position, and how to maximize their experience later in life. I will be purchasing copies of this book and sending it to all my former students.
Highly recommend!
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