Please tell us about yourself

Growing up in India, telling stories was always Aadit Tambe’s (Journalism and Mass Communication ‘20) dream. In order to pursue his passion for journalism, Aadit wanted to create a strong educational platform for himself. The open-mindedness of his family gave him the opportunity to pursue his college education in the United States.

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When 6 universities in the United States offered him admission, Aadit picked the University of Iowa because it is deemed to be the writing university.

“When I first came to Iowa, I had butterflies in my stomach. I had never lived alone before, and doing so in a new country seemed like a daunting adventure. Coming from Mumbai, a city with population of 12 million people, Iowa City seemed unnaturally small.”

But when Aadit set foot on campus in 2016, he knew that there was nowhere else he would rather be.

“As soon as I got here, the city gave a welcoming vibe, there was something in Iowa City that made me feel that I belonged here. The campus had a cozy feel and I fell in love with the people and the values they shared.”

How was your initial experience in Iowa?

Last month as I walked into Prairie Lights, I instinctively held the door open for an older woman I didn’t know. Beaming at me, she asked how my day was going, and what I studied. Following the brief interchange, I sat by the window, watching a stream of snow blow across Dubuque Street.

I sipped my warm double espresso and ruminated on the “Iowa nice” attitude at the center of the interaction — something I was foreign to growing up.

Originally from India, I am one of the 1,768 undergraduate international students enrolled at the University of Iowa. But when I first came here in 2016, this number was 2,478: in fact, the number of international students has been declining over the past five years.

Fewer international students not only make our community less diverse but also affect an important funding source for colleges in the United States. A plunge in international-student enrollment translates to domestic students getting fewer chances to interact with people from different cultures.“

To me, however, this not-so-subtle change means fewer people look the way I do. But I am determined to work hard, feel included, and ‘live the American dream.’”

To me, however, this not-so-subtle change means fewer people look the way I do. But I am determined to work hard, feel included, and “live the American dream.”

When I first came to Iowa, I felt out of place. I had to make a decision: I could either spend my four years of college feeling like an outsider because of my looks, my accent, and my choices; or I could embrace the differences and choose to feel like an “insider.”

What did you study? How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and unique career?

This might seem like an interesting challenge to feel like an “insider.” After all, I was born in 1999 in Mumbai — a city with a population five times that of Chicago. The city exudes a muggy climate all year-round, with both summer and winter temperatures in the 80s-90s. The city is filled with hard-working laborers, film stars, business tycoons, and people who sleep in tents made of canvas or tin. Thousands of people flock to Mumbai every day with the hope that their dreams will become reality.“

When I first came to University of Iowa to study BA in Journalism & Mass Communication, I felt out of place. I had to make a decision: I could either spend my four years of college feeling like an outsider because of my looks, my accent, and my choices; or I could embrace the differences…”

To me, however, Mumbai was more than this — it was home.

When I was in fourth grade, my family relocated to Pune, a smaller city about 100 miles from Mumbai. This meant that I would move away from my grandfather, my friends, and most of all, a place I was used to calling “home.”

Soon after moving to Pune, my grades slacked. I did not have many friends in school. I was neither good at studies nor at sports. Apart from my parents and a couple of teachers at my new school, I sensed that no one believed in me. This feeling began to haunt me.

Growing up, I realized my interests were different from others’. I was not fascinated with playing sports, reading fictional books, or watching kids’ movies. I would take pleasure in unconventional activities such as reading nonfiction books, writing poems, keeping up with political happenings, watching TED Talks, and helping my parents in the kitchen.

I was emotionally sensitive as a growing child — I cared about people, and what they thought of me. School authorities did not accept me for who I was. My teachers told me I was a “little too feminine.”

Being a boy, I was required to be good at math and science and have an interest in sports. But I didn’t fit that model. In fifth grade, my school principal called my parents to speak with them because — despite my good grades in history, languages, and geography, my grades in math and science were suffering. It was a warning for me to “pull up my socks” — a British expression meaning “straighten up.”

My teachers did not realize that despite being in fifth grade, I possessed an in-depth understanding of India’s political system. I knew everything about fountain pens. I loved visiting antique stores and spent most of my money on buying parts I needed to restore fountain pens.

No one outside my family accepted my unconventional sense of masculinity. I could feel the system was ganging up against me.

Things changed when I switched schools after 10th grade to Modern Education Society’s Nowrosjee Wadia College Arts, Science, Pune in Humanites. I met people from diverse backgrounds in my new school who understood me. I could be myself around my new friends, and after a long time, I started enjoying being with people.

My goal had always been to study journalism. I have always enjoyed telling stories, and being a journalist would give me a unique platform of telling others’ stories. Being open-minded, my parents encouraged me to move to the U.S. for college. I liked Iowa’s journalism program and decided to accept the admission offer.

But during my first week in Iowa City, I felt out of place. It was clear to me that I was different — I did not look like the people around me. Once again, I was struggling to fit in.

On my third day in Iowa City, I met with a fellow international student who was also from India. He narrated a quote from a well-known Hindi film which translates to: “People naturally don’t share a sense of belonging. One needs to evoke this feeling in them.”

This quote resonated with me.“

In a place where no one shared similarities in terms of appearance, I was encouraged to be myself and I was accepted for who I was.”

I decided to go the extra mile to seek common ground between myself and people around me. Determined to feel included, I looked beyond differences to build relationships on commonalities. I stopped searching for people who “looked like me.”

Tell us about your career path

Finding opportunities to get involved at Iowa was not difficult. Aadit initially wanted to get into broadcast journalism and television news. He worked for The Daily Iowan TV’s technical team. While working for DITV, however, Aadit discovered that TV News was not for him.

Aadit started working as a News Reporter for The Daily Iowan to explore his love for writing and storytelling. He focussed on covering the Health and Science beat his first year.

“This is when I realized that I wanted to become a writer and work in the news media. There was nothing I enjoyed more than writing as a medium to tell stories.”

He now focuses on writing in-depth issue-based stories for The DI. Aadit also works as Digital Producer for The DI, being a member of a 5-person team that manages the website and social media.

Aadit’s second area of study is German. Having German as an extra-curricular subject in high-school, Aadit enjoyed learning the language. After coming to Iowa, he decided to have a concentration in German.

Your advice to students?

To future hawkeyes, Aadit says, “get involved on campus. Iowa has a wealth of organizations that can help you gain real-world experience. It all depends on your level of initiative and your drive. These four years are not going to come back. So, before going to bed every night, make sure there was something in your day that you gave your best.”