Photo: IOM/F. Kim
"I have been living in Milan for more than 5 years, which is my first experience outside India. I actually never planned to leave my country in the first place, but I honestly feel at home now in Milan. Milan is more peaceful, while India is chaotic and even suffocating at times.
"It started while I was studying for my second year of fashion design at university in New Delhi. Back in my school days I was also a part-time model, but I was mostly focusing on fashion design. I accidentally enrolled in a competition – which I thought was a fashion competition – but that was instead a beauty pageant. I was selected in the auditions and I was part of this Miss Universe India pageant, which was hosted by the ex-Miss Universe, an Indian woman, who I looked up to in India for her entrepreneurial skills. Then I found out there was a scholarship linked to the competition from a fashion institute in Milan. It sounded so surreal, but it was an opportunity I couldn’t miss. I wanted the scholarship, and soon after I found out I got it! My life completely changed after that.
"I was on a really tight budget, didn’t speak the language, plus finding accommodation was a big issue. Just after three days in Milan, I wanted to go back to India! The first odd cultural feature I noticed about Milan was that, although being a fashion capital and a metropolis, most restaurants would be closed at 3 PM. At the beginning, it was tough to adjust to this new cultural routine and lifestyle but I was doing well in school. Eventually I found a stable job as a designer for a year and a half.
"I would say that my journey was positive. When I talk to Indian peers who have also moved to Milan, I see a lot of disappointment and loneliness. But I think it’s because they were expecting the same level of comfort that they were used to at home. I am taking it in a different way: I will always be a foreigner here and if I don’t accept it, I will never be happy. So I adapted myself, and now I feel in the middle– both a local and a migrant."