Most people, if not everyone, leave their homes behind at least once in their lifetime to move to a new place—a place totally different from where they grew up. It may be for work, for study, or maybe a totally different reason. The move can bring excitement and sometimes anxiety. After you’ve moved, you explore the new place, get to know the area, make new friends. But soon, when the novelty begins to wear off, you miss your home, the place where you spent the formative years of your life. Sometimes, moving to a new place brings back the memories of your childhood, and childhood friends, that you didn’t much care about when you were still living at home. Slowly, you begin to make the new place your home. You find your spot that makes you feel at home, you meet new people that make you feel loved, you discover new foods and acquire different tastes and a whole new palate. And all of that begins to make the new place your new home. This is often true for students who go to college in a different country. In this particular case, we are talking about Indian students who come to the United States for higher education.
The University of Michigan is one of the top study-abroad destinations for students in India. Some of them, who make it to U-M, stay on and work in the U.S., and some return to their home country. Today, there are more than 2500 alumni living and working in India. They are highly successful and happy to be back, but they also long for the times they spent at U-M.
This is where the University of Michigan India Alumni Association (UMIAA) comes in, an organization formed by UM alumni in India in 2000. The UMIAA is a platform for social, professional and academic exchange amongst alumni, and a way to keep memories of, and news about, the University of Michigan alive and well in India.
We asked Sujith Yankanaik—a graduate of College of Literature Science and Arts (Class of ’13)—about his time at the University of Michigan, and about his favorite campus hangouts, where he felt at home, and the people who became like family to him. Sujith said, “While I was on-campus I reveled in the game-day atmosphere in Ann Arbor every Saturday in the fall and during basketball season. I also appreciated the quiet and serene parts of the city – the cafes, the law library and the long runs in the Arb. Most of all, I appreciated the relationships and life-long friendships that I nurtured within the college and in the city. I felt highly fortunate that a kid from the outskirts of Bangalore, whose grandparents didn’t have electricity in their village, was able to go to one of the most prestigious universities in the world.”
On asking about his life after moving back to India, Sujith remarked that he “came back to India to work in the education sector. I also lead the University of Michigan India Alumni Association’s (UMIAA) engagements. As part of the UMIAA, we try to recreate the collegial environment that made us fall in love with the university. Through regular meet-ups and events and WhatsApp groups, we share all things Michigan, we watch football--and party, of course!”
We also talked to Girish Mudgal, a graduate of the College of Engineering (Class of ’02), about how he benefits from the U-M alumni association in India. “Having a great peer group while at school, to collaborate with or socialize with, is something that the Wolverines in India fulfill for me. So many of the senior Michigan Alums in India are highly accomplished professionals and thought leaders. It is really a pleasure to connect and hang out with them. Some of my alum friendships have led to business collaborations with my firm as well. Most importantly, the joy of feeling younger while recollecting the good ol' Ann Arbor times over a beer in Michigan gear is just unbeatable,” he said.
UMIAA members come from the Ross School of Business, College of Engineering, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, the Law School, and several other U-M schools. The University of Michigan India Alumni Association is the officially recognized Alumni arm of the University of Michigan in India. The objectives of the UMIAA are building recognition of the University of Michigan in India, strengthening the U-M alumni network, supporting admissions efforts for U-M, and raising funds for UMIAA initiatives.
Most recently, the UMIAA has taken on a new initiative, the Alumni Mentorship Program. The program pairs Indian alumni mentors with incoming undergraduates to help students make the transition to a new country and new school easier. The Association welcomes all alumni to join its network and enjoy opportunities to network, socialize, and help future generations of U-M students achieve success.