Discussing the intersection of career and heritage.
I graduated with a double major and went on to secure an entry level position at a Fortune 500 company. My family was proud of me, but after a year of 3 promotions, several outstanding performance awards, and a sweet annual bonus-I found the work unfulfilling and did not feel that I would be able to reach my full potential. Cross-cultural mentors encouraged me to consider applying for a master’s degree in the area of my interest: diplomacy and international Commerce. I too felt it would be a perfect combination of my educational background in business administration and international affairs. I felt that graduate school would help me to explore my interest in public service. Yet, there were two main obstacles to pursuing my graduate studies.
Overcoming Social Stigmas
One, was the social stigma within my family’s Punjabi-Sikh immigrant American community about unmarried women living on their own, in my case, 400 miles away from home. Choosing to matriculate in the University of Kentucky’s graduate school meant intentionally fostering and building a support network outside of my family of origin, and racial-religious-ethnic community. It also meant making my cultural and religious values my own. Allow me to explain. While my family would disapprove of my moving out because of social stigmas surrounding unmarried Sikh women living on their own, I found approval in my own interpretations around living my life as a Sikh woman. For me, being a Sikh woman meant being radically honest with myself and all others around me about my life and being willing to deal with the consequences of my actions. My cross-cultural mentor, who graduated from the University of Kentucky, helped me by introducing me to his personal and professional connections when I first moved to Lexington. His support and advice helped me to overcome the challenge of being isolated from my family of origin and in cultivating a support network of my own.
Advice: Cross-cultural mentors and friendships are important to one’s personal growth and development. The cross-cultural relationships in my life have helped me to go beyond my “growth edge.” They have helped me to develop a global cross-cultural competency, increased my capacity to maintain multiple perspectives, and helped me with navigating inter/intrapersonal conflicts.