Worldly Pursuits: An Indian's Voice

Worldly Pursuits: An Indian's Voice Photos by | Jason Kaplan

Bhavana Ramesh hears the stereotype all the time: “‘You’re from India, so you must be studying IT.'"


Instead of taking offense, Ramesh, 30, leans into the cliché — hard.

Her undergraduate degree from an Indian college is in IT engineering. She has eight years of work experience in Bangalore, India’s “Silicon City.”

And she just completed the two-year, post-graduate engineering technology management program at Portland State University, where most of her classmates, 60% according to her calculations, were Indian.

Other stereotypes, like the one about the insanely rich foreign student who pays tuition in cash and drops big bucks on luxury goods without blinking, get some push back.

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Ramesh took out an education loan, and her solidly middle-class parents mortgaged their home to attend PSU.

She’s reasonably confident the investment will pay off. Ramesh already interned at Daimler Trucks in Portland and Boeing in Seattle. Her hiring was courtesy of a third-party consulting company for the Boeing job because of rules around the company’s sensitive military contracts.

Ramesh plans to return to Boeing once her Optional Practical Training (OPT) request is approved. Usually a one-year program, OPT for STEM students can be extended another 24 months.

RELATED STORY: Worldly Pursuits — How foreign students are shoring up Oregon universities, for now

But her big goal is to leverage her American experience back home.

“Risk taking is not an Indian thing,” says Ramesh, who wants to create a startup.

“I have a thousand ideas, but I still need to learn how to focus and get better at networking.”

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