I come from an extreme racial minority group of African American and East Indian cultures. I was adopted into an East Indian family and raised with Indian cultures and morals. Growing up with traditional Indian parents was amazing, but there was a lot of pressure to choose a career that would give me a bright future. I’ve always been someone who was interested in helping others and giving back to my communities. So, ideally, I’d find a career that met both goals.
My Travels to India
In the summer of 2016 (while still in high school), I travelled to South India to teach English to impoverished students for two months. I wanted to embark on this journey to “figure myself out.” It was the summer before applying to college, and I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life.
I stayed in my father’s hometown with my paternal grandparents, who I communicated with in their native language of Tamil; and volunteered at a local school. The school kids were ecstatic that I could speak Tamil with them. It gave us an opportunity to become closer and have in-depth conversations about their life events and experiences, which I was later able to translate into English.
During this time, I noticed some of my students had fluency disorders. They were able to express their thoughts and feelings to me, including the impact stuttering had on their lives and frustrations about how their families were unable to afford the help they needed for their speech disorders.
Discovering Speech Pathology
After hearing the emotional impact of stuttering on my students, I went home and researched what I could do to make a difference in their lives. That’s when I discovered speech pathology and what it means to be a speech-language pathologist. I was enamored and intrigued by the wide scope of practice SLPs have, as well as how they’re able to work in schools, hospitals, and private practice . . . this is exactly what these children needed.
To my disappointment, I realized the nearest SLP was hours away from where these children lived. And I eventually learned that while there’s a severe need for SLPs in India, there’s an extreme shortage of SLPs too. I was extremely disheartened and found it extremely unfair.
But this realization did instill in me a strong passion to become an SLP and figure out a way for these students to attain the services they desperately need. I hope to one day come back to my father’s village and provide local children with the speech and language services they need.