"I was born and raised in the United States to Sri Lankan parents, but I was no stranger to the homeland, visiting every few years as a child. Although we lived in the U.S., my parents made sure to instill Sri Lankan values in me. At home, the rules and norms were traditional and conservative, compared to those of my American friends and classmates. For example, all adults were to be addressed as “Uncle” or “Aunty” regardless of whether they were related to me or not – whereas my friends were all on a first-name basis with the adults they knew! Furthermore, in my household, there was a huge emphasis on education and academic performance. Participating in any activities that were seen as a distraction from school was frowned upon. I admit that this was a bit difficult growing up; especially during my teenage years, I really felt the culture clash between my Sri Lankan household and my American reality. I missed school dances and sleepovers, and my friends started to go out on dates before I was even allowed to attend a football game!
Looking back, however, I understand how the traditional foundation my parents set has impacted my identity, my interests, and the decisions I have made throughout my life so far. My background and the exposure I had to the world, through my travels and interactions, really drove my interest in my studies, leading me to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a Masters in Social Policy and Development. From a young age, I sought to understand why there were such stark differences between the U.S. and Sri Lanka, and between the developed and developing world in general. I became committed to international development and to service – I felt there was so much I could do to help others in need. So I moved to Sri Lanka after my studies, mainly to pursue my career in development work.
I found a new home in Sri Lanka, and finally felt like I could connect with and relate to people who had cultural upbringings similar to my own. In my time away from the U.S., I’ve learned so much more about the world and its people. I have a dual-lens which I think allows me to see a more balanced picture – the best of both worlds. I really hope to contribute to Sri Lanka by showing an example of how to reverse brain drain. Sri Lanka is a marvelous country with marvelous people, and its potential should be recognized."