By Amruta Marwah
As I peeped outside the window, getting my first glimpse of the world-famous Minnesota snow, I soaked in as much of the cool breeze and the pretty white snow, not knowing I would be witnessing this spectacle for a long time. My first reaction, when my husband and I reached our apartment, was “Where are all the people?” Of course, it being a weekday, and the month being December, people were not supposed to be around. But, how could a person hailing from a country with hustling bustling crowds ever digest the fact that there would never be as many people on the street as back home, no matter the season or the day of the week.
Gradually as the sheet of snow melted away, and spring set in, I suddenly saw all of humanity arising from their hibernating coves. I witnessed the presence of squirrels, and rabbits and birds, something that is not very common in India, because all the space has been taken up by housing, business complexes and heavy traffic. So, it was amusing for me to just peep outside the window and get a glimpse of the woods.
With the onset of spring, I was introduced to the friendly Minnesotans. People would randomly smile and to this date, I tell my family, it was those smiles that made me comfortable in this land so far away from home.
I was comfortable, but not yet sure of the ways and manners of this country and its people. The first few months I just studied everything around me, and pondered over the differences. The first time I watched a movie here, I was amazed that there weren’t crazy lines going all the way up to the door. In a country like India, where there are so many moviegoers and fewer theatres, half the fun of the movie-going experience is in lining up for the tickets.
For somebody who visits a new country, the first few days are very important in terms of the impressions formed and whether those instill the desire in you to be around for some more time. For me, those wonderful impressions were formed at the library. I volunteered there, and that was my window to the American Society. This is where I found out that being straight forward, does not have to mean being rude; it just means that you want to be clear on your point. This is where, I found opportunities to put my creativity to use and get an opportunity to display my paintings for the “Art on City Walls” program. This is where I stopped feeling lost and realized that American people are one of the most open-minded, when it comes to embracing diversity. I also gained confidence: I might not talk the same way as they did, but as long as I could put my point across, it was okay, they were not there to judge me. This confidence led me to my first job, and inspired me to go back to school. My experience with the library also inspired the story I wrote about immigrants and the library for the November issue of Southwest Metro Magazine.
And as an immigrant, who has been in Minnesota for almost three years, I find it my moral responsibility to let everybody know that there are places like the library, where you can, not just find great friends in books, but also get an opportunity to feel accepted and welcome. It is these community places that every immigrant should approach to make the settling down process a little easier. For me, it was the opportunity to converse with people and get a feel of the ‘Minnesota nice’ that made life easier.
Amruta Marwah is a resident of Eden Prairie, who lived in Nagpur, a city in central India, before moving to Minnesota. She has a master’s degree in microbiology and plans to pursue her doctorate.