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Let Go, Embrace Options, Fall in Love

Did he end up saying hello to her?

Almost every day, there was that one moment where I braced myself for at least five minutes, wanting to say “Hi” to her.

But I didn’t.

I was too scared, perhaps. Maybe because of my perceived shortcomings: I'm not the quintessential popular frat boy who is six feet ((1.8 meters)) tall with massive biceps. I couldn't hold a conversation for very long. With my thick Indian accent, I found myself repeating everything, instead of actually making some sense.

Even an introduction was tiring.

My Indian name “Parth” turned out as “Bart” to American ears. It took at least three determined attempts to get the name right.

“Why am I not in India?” I sometimes thought to myself. Life would have been much easier without the added effort to have to adjust to American culture, customs and way of life.

I can’t lie. I wasn’t really homesick. I had already spent six years at a boarding school in the foothills of the Himalayas far away from my parents. By the time my freshman year came around, I was used to living away from home.

Yes, I craved authentic Indian food at times, but I learned to suppress the cravings or eat out at an Indian restaurant. It's almost the same thing.

But things changed, and honestly, at this point, I couldn't be happier.

Parth Vohra with fellow members of fraternity executive committee, Delta Phi Epsilon, spring 2017, at the University of California-Berkeley.
Parth Vohra with fellow members of fraternity executive committee, Delta Phi Epsilon, spring 2017, at the University of California-Berkeley.

Happiness is a choice, surely. It doesn't come automatically. One has to try really hard.

The phrase “no shield” is a good approach to avoid homesickness. ((My friends will laugh at this. Because I keep on giving them the same “gyan,” or knowledge, as they say.)) It means to just let go. Without inhibition.

What’s the worst a “Hi” can do? They'll look at you, and frown or giggle or not talk to you?

So say that “Hi.” Meet people. Open up to them. And, make friends.

Next, step into many things in your first semester. No joke.

I’m not telling you to sleep for only four hours a day powered by three cups of coffee, but be curious. Try out different things to actually learn where your passion lies. And, even if you know, it's always great to build new interests.

The two biggest pillars of my life, journalism and theater, have sprung from that mantra.

Never in my wildest dreams in high school could I have imagined I would be writing for Voice of America, let alone pursuing a career in journalism. Or fathomed myself weeping on the floor at the death of my father, in Henry VI, Part 2, during a monologue in a theater class about Shakespeare.

I even took a baking class one semester because it was fun! Doing what I really like has kept me very happy.

And, finally, embrace.

Embrace yourself. Embrace others. Embrace situations.

In college, there are many moments to lament. But don’t. Find the silver lining even in the worst of problems. And be different; enjoy your uniqueness.

My time in the United States is echoed by the words of American poet Maya Angelou, and I have been happy.

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”

After bracing myself, I finally said that one “Hi.” We ended up dating for a year. Beautiful. And, we're still great friends.

Parth Vohra is a junior at the University of California-Berkeley.

Have you fallen in love in America? Please share your suggestion in the Comments here, and visit us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, thanks!

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Former US Congresswoman Liz Cheney Urges Graduates Not to Compromise With the Truth

Former U.S. Congresswoman Liz Cheney, a Republican who represented Wyoming, delivers the commencement address at Colorado College, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, May 28, 2023.

Former U.S. Congresswoman Liz Cheney implored new college graduates to not compromise when it comes to the truth, excoriating her House Republican colleagues for not doing enough to combat former President Donald Trump's lies that the 2020 election was stolen.

In a commencement speech at Colorado College, the Wyoming Republican repeated her fierce criticisms of Trump but steered clear of talking about his 2024 reelection campaign or her own political future.

Cheney, who graduated from Colorado College in 1988, recalled being a political science student walking into a campus building where a Bible verse was inscribed above the entrance that read, "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free."

"After the 2020 election and the attack of January 6th, my fellow Republicans wanted me to lie. They wanted me to say the 2020 election was stolen, the attack of January 6th wasn't a big deal, and Donald Trump wasn't dangerous," Cheney said Sunday in Colorado Springs, connecting her experiences as a student to her work in the U.S. House of Representatives. "I had to choose between lying and losing my position in House leadership."

In three terms in office, Cheney rose to the No. 3 GOP leadership position in the House, a job she lost after voting to impeach Trump for the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol and then not relenting in her criticism of the former president.

Cheney's speech touched on themes similar to those she has promoted since leaving office in January: addressing her work on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol and standing up to the threat she believes Trump poses to democracy. She also encouraged more women to run for office and criticized one of the election-denying attorneys who worked for Trump after the 2020 election for recent remarks about college students voting.

"Cleta Mitchell, an election denier and adviser to former President Trump, told a gathering of Republicans recently that it is crucially important to make sure that college students don't vote," Cheney said. "Those who are trying to unravel the foundations of our republic, who are threatening the rule of law and the sanctity of our elections, know they can't succeed if you vote."

In an audio recording of Mitchell's presentation from a recent Republican National Committee retreat, she warns of polling places on college campuses and the ease of voting as potential problems, The Washington Post reported.

Most students and parents in the audience applauded throughout Cheney's remarks, yet some booed. Some students opposing the choice of Cheney as speaker turned their chairs away from the stage as she spoke.

Cheney's busy speaking schedule and subject matter have fueled speculation about whether she may enter the 2024 GOP presidential primary since she left office. Candidates ranging from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley have calibrated their remarks about Trump, aiming to counter his attacks without alienating the supporters that won him the White House seven years ago.

Though some have offered measured criticisms, no declared or potential challenger has embraced anti-Trump messaging to the same extent as Cheney. She did not reference her plans on Sunday but has previously said she remains undecided about whether she wants to run for president.

Though she would face an uphill battle, Cheney's fierce anti-Trump stance and her role as vice chairwoman of the House committee elevated her platform high enough to call on a national network of donors and Trump critics to support a White House run.

A super PAC organized to support of her candidacy has remained active, including purchasing attack ads on New Hampshire airwaves against Trump this month.

After leaving office and being replaced by a Trump-backed Republican who defeated her in last year's primary, Cheney was appointed to a professorship at the University of Virginia and wrote "Oath and Honor," a memoir scheduled to hit shelves in November.

Two of Cheney's five children as well as her mother are also graduates of the liberal arts college.

Cheney's speaking tour appears to be picking up. She is scheduled to appear Thursday at the Mackinac Policy Conference in Michigan.

How Are Girls in Afghanistan Continuing Their Education?

FILE - Afghan university students chant slogans and hold placards during a protest against the ban on university education for women, in Quetta, Pakistan, Dec. 24, 2022.

After the Taliban retook power in Afghanistan in 2021, they severely limited access to education for girls. Yet a club founded in the U.S., Flowers for the Future, helps Afghan girls keep learning through Zoom meetings with U.S. students. Two students, one Afghan, one American, describe their journey with the program and what it's taught them about grit, resilience and the importance of learning. Read the essays by Mahsa Kosha and Emily Khossaravi in the Hechinger Report. (May 2023)

Could Your International Degree be Financed by Goldman Sachs?

FILE - The logo for Goldman Sachs is seen on the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, Nov. 17, 2021.

Quite possibly, since the elite U.S. investment bank has been investing millions in educational startups. Students from countries like India, Nigeria and Indonesia have long struggled to finance their U.S. degrees due to limited access to loans, but these new startups could disrupt that. For example, in just the first quarter of 2022, one startup, Prodigy Finance, reported a 98% increase in the number of Indian loan applicants. Nick Cuthbert of the PIE News breaks down the financial projections. (May 2023)

How Do College Sports Bring Together American and International Students?

FILE - People play ultimate frisbee on the beach, April 11, 2018, in Santa Barbara, California.

The game of Ultimate Frisbee has no referees and isn't governed by the official association for U.S. college sports. But it is intensely competitive, and students from Australia, China and elsewhere travel to the U.S. to play for the best schools. Andrew Smith of VOA Learning English reports on how college athletics can forge international friendships outside the classroom. (May 2023)

Is It Possible for Vietnamese Universities to Find Ways to Attract American Students to Study Abroad?

FILE - An aerial photograph of Hanoi, Vietnam, Nov. 6, 2021.

Vietnamese students now make up the fifth-largest group of foreign students in the U.S., according to the 2022 Institute of International Education’s (IIE) annual Open Doors report. The report found 20,713 Vietnamese students studied in the U.S. in the 2021-2022 academic year.

But now some Vietnamese universities have recently begun trying to attract U.S. students to study in Vietnam, a goal that is challenging, some education experts told VOA’s Khanh An. (May 2023)

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