When I received Rajika Bhandari’s America Calling: A Foreign Student in a Country of Possibility during a time of upheaval for my family (relocating to Ethiopia from the USA), I planned to read it quickly. I was happy to see a new book written about international students, and was nearly certain I would heartily recommend it, but didn’t have much extra time to spare. I sat down one evening and purposed to speed through the pages and write a quick review.
Alas, dear reader, I was no match for Bhandari’s incredible storytelling ability and impressive professional acumen, staying up several hours past a sensible bedtime in order to truly enjoy and process every word of this brilliantly written memoir/study of international students in the USA.
Bhandari’s journalistic attention to detail, her incisive cultural observation and analysis as someone who has become an insider-outsider in both India and the USA, and her intense self-awareness in the process of her cultural adjustment combine to make America Calling a fascinating read for anyone who interacts with international students. Descriptions of common experiences such as living in an apartment complexes filled with people from all over the globe, navigating the dizzying selection of products housed by American grocery stores for the first time, and visiting Americans in their homes for holidays will bring a smile of recognition to the face of anyone who been involved with international students, but Bhandari’s real contribution is her honest account of the psychological processes inherent in these experiences which helped me to deepen my understanding and empathy for international students’ lived experiences.
Bhandari manages to write in such a way that includes her own particular experiences recounted in vivid detail while not losing sight of the grand narrative she is a part of—the united experience of international students who have left their homelands to studying USA. As an international higher education expert, she weaves in current statistics and detailed history regarding international student in the USA, deftly employing her background in psychology to probe the reasons behind the deep attraction of international students to American schools, to consider factors that may negatively affect future enrollment of said students, and to give a clear-eyed call for Americans to prioritize their continued relationship with the rest of the world through the flow of international students. She shares the many ways in which international students enrich and benefit the campuses where they study as well as the nation as a whole, whether they return to their home countries after graduation or stay on to become contributing members of the American workforce.
This is required reading for anyone who knows international students. Prepare to learn while being caught up in a poignant, well-told story. Buy your copy of America Calling here!