BY TOMAS KASSAHUN
When she left India and came to the United States as a 13-year-old girl, Cinthiya Chander was expecting the kids in her school to be dancing in the cafeteria. But the reality of America was nothing like the High School Musical movies she watched in her native home.
In fact, it turned out to be a complete culture shock that would take some time to overcome.
“My peers instantly knew I was different and that I was not from here. My accent gained a negative interest,” Chander said. “My fellow students couldn’t understand me, so freshman year was the hardest.”
As she struggled to understand the language and the culture in America, Chander kept to herself.
Her early struggles, however, didn’t stop her from finding success at Clovis North High School, where she graduated in the top 10 percent of her class.
After graduating from Clovis North, Chander realized that she was not able to afford tuition for her dream universities. So she took her one other option – attend Clovis Community College.
But now, Chander is free from financial worries. That’s because Chander has received a $5,000 scholarship from Golden 1 Credit Union. With the scholarship in hand, Chander is heading to UCLA.
“When I received the email saying I had been awarded $5,000 to continue my education, I was quite astounded. It felt significant,” Chander said. “I have been worrying about affording college tuition since freshmen year of high school.”
Chander also applied for the scholarship last year, but she didn’t qualify.
“It was very hard for me to cope with that rejection,” she said.
This time, Chander said she expanded her horizon and seized every extracurricular opportunity that she could fit in her schedule. She occupied herself with classes, three jobs and an internship.
“Although I was confident, the win was still exciting and it lifted the financial burden off my shoulders,” she said. “I received the email in the midst of my finals week and it was such a huge relief. I felt lighter and could envision a brighter future for myself.”
Currently a pre-med student, Chander wants to be a pediatric surgeon in the future.
“I work with a Vascular surgeon right now and everything about surgery is very intriguing to me,” she said. “I’m transferring to UCLA to get my B.S. degree in Biochemistry.”
As she looks back at her early days in the United States, Chander says there was one popular device that especially helped improve her English.
“I watched a lot of Netflix to erase my accent,” she said. “And I started taking AP classes to gear towards a more serious curriculum and different set of students.”