Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hanging on in the USA

I asked a young lady living in the US as to why most  Indians  who go to USA to study computer engineering or to work in the field of software and computers are satisfied with their jobs and do not explore entrepreneurship .  She said that they spend all their energy, just trying to hang in there! And that at the end of the day, they are thankful, if they get a greencard/citizenship and have a decent   job.

She told me of the struggles of many of her friends. All of these are youth in their twenties, who have masters degrees in computer sciences, software related subjects, telecommunications  or electronics.

One was lucky enough to get a job and H1 visa in a campus interview even before he finished his masters degree in the US. He was happy and excited  with his H1 visa and job and had a great time working, paying off his student loans, travelling around the US and so on until….. he got turfed out  when his company merged with another and this was  followed by a massive downsizing in his company. He had been in this company for less than two years. He then went through a harrowing time while trying to stay on in the USA legally, searching for jobs  and  taking numerous interviews . He went through his savings before he could find another job! Luckily he did get another job and could renew is H1 visa but went through a pretty rough time before that.

Another was a guy who completed his master’s degree and being a pretty bright kid, he had some research and patents to his credit. Unfortunately, he had his masters in a field where only people with experience would land jobs. He roamed around the US for almost two years, sleeping on friends couches and trying for jobs but did not get any. He left to India and is working there and trying to come back to the USA.

Another is a young lady who intended to do some research before trying for jobs and then changed her mind as she was going nowhere with  her research. She got an internship when she finished her Masters and quit her PhD plans. After a few months, she even got a job offer in the company she was interning at.   Thanks to the HR messing up her application for H1, she missed getting her H1 visa; then her job offer was withdrawn as she did not have H1! Then, she had to leave the company as her internship time had run out and she had to leave the USA too unless she could find some legal way of staying on. She immediately applied and joined a university, though she did not really need the courses they were offering. She did manage to extend her stay as a student and even believed that since enrolling in this university, she could get back her internship and thus earn some money to keep her going. But to her incredible bad luck,within a month after enrolling at this university, the university was  declared illegal and shut down! She now had to get her papers transferred from this university fast and into another university to maintain her student visa status and keep her stay in the US legal. She scrambled around desperately looking for universities and colleges which would take her and also which would also let her to intern. Most universities had started their courses already and it appeared to be too late for her to get in. Staff at the admission departments of the college was rude and nasty to her when she told them she was transferring from this derecognized university! They treated her, a student and a victim of that university like she was a criminal while it was the fraudulent behaviour of the university’s CEO which got the university into trouble. She finally managed to get into a college and her stay in the USA was kept legal but this college did not permit her to work and so she had to use up her meagre savings and take loans to survive until next April when she will hopefully apply and get H1 visa. She is trying to look for H1 visa in the categories where there is no cap but she has not yet had any luck so far.

This young lady’s run of bad luck has been quite tremendous. First the HR  in the organization she was interning messed up by not only delaying putting in her application for H1 but also by not considering other options to hire her which were available. Next the university she enrolls in goes under. Next, she gets into a college which thankfully keeps her in the US legally but without internship which means she will be up to her ears in loans by the time she does get a job.

Last is the case of another young lady who was hired as an intern but was given tasks which did not use her skills but had her working pretty hard and for long hours. It was indirectly intimated to her that she will get a H1 visa and a job more matched to her skills at the end of 3 months and so she stayed on inspite of being dissatisfied. But at the end, the company hired someone else!  It was sheer lying and exploitation by the company. She left this company and did manage to get a job she is happy with.

People reading this may wonder, why are these youth so desperate to stay on in the USA? With their education and skills, they should be able to get good jobs in India where they are from and maybe get a job anywhere in the world. I asked this of the youth and all their responses indicated their dissatisfaction with so much in India. The work culture is terrible. The hierarchy in the organization, lack of respect for those in the lower positions, the lack of respect for women in the work place, the racism manifested at the work place for example, north Indians and south Indians not getting along, the brutal working hours. Outside of the workplace too, the picture is not welcoming: the corruption in the whole of India, the lack of basic amenities even in major cities, the immense competition for limited resources …competition for getting your kid into a good school or college for example, the sheer crowdedness in India, the list goes on.

While youth from well to do families do not mind going back to India after their studies, those from middle class families, at least the ones I know do not want to return to India. Women have a whole lot of additional reasons to not return to India. For example, this young lady I know is single, studying and working and living with complete freedom in the USA.  She does not want to return to India. She is a responsible mature lady who behaves well and will never do anything illegal or immoral. Inspite of her being such a decent person i.e.  being a lady who will not “sin” whether she is being watched or not,  her family will cut off her freedom, if she returns to India! She will be told she cannot wear ‘such’ clothes, that she should be home by 9pm, that she should not ‘talk too much’ to men at work, etc. After tasting freedom in the USA, girls and women simply do not want to go back to the restrictions imposed on them by their families and society in India! This young lady I am talking about has done so many things she would never be allowed to do if she had been in India! She drives at night, long distances(across 10 states of USA at one time); she sits in the library till early morning; she stays over at her friends place, she has gone hiking alone with a  man she works with , she has gone to movies with a  ‘man’ she knows from school, she has shared an apartment with an unknown man and done so many things her parents don’t approve of!

I hope that one day India and all other countries whose citizens flee….will one day improve so much that the citizens don’t feel the need to flee their motherlands. Unless that happens, citizens of all the third world countries will try to seek to better their lives in other places.

The one good thing I am observing about these youth who face these hardships while trying to survive in the US is their wonderful resilience! The struggles  they face is building their character, their ability to face difficulties, their abilities to help each other and stick it together, their ability to learn from mistakes, to get up and continue when they fail,  to not give up. 

Another problem they face which I forgot to mention is about their marriages and relationships. Many these days find their own mates instead of going into arranged marriages like 10-20 years ago. The problems they face seem to be related to distance more than anything else. Many couples in relationships work in different places and unable to get jobs in the same city.  Some try to keep the relationship going inspite of the distance while a few give up.

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