It all started with us embarrassing ourselves…
We were set to meet Ramesh Kamath at the Starbucks across from Santa Clara University. Out front, we introduce ourselves to a young Indian man named Ramesh.
“Hi, we’re SelfScore. Are you ready for your interview?”
“Oh, sorry. Wrong Ramesh!”
Hah! Um, yes, of course.
Then the real Ramesh turned up and the wait was all worth it. Like most SelfScore card holders, he’s an overachiever who is careful with his money and focused on his future. He’s only 22 and has already found his way from Mumbai to an internship in Silicon Valley at nearby Nvidia — only one year into his MA program in computer science. His ticket to the US was the SAE Aero Design competition in Dallas in which his time successfully constructed a working plane. And yet he insists, “I have no plans, as such. Maybe start my own company.”
Right…no plans. He spends more time doing rather than talking, so he’s too absorbed in his current work to think about his plans. He has equal enthusiasm about working in the US and returning to India after he graduates, the careful reaction of one who’s gone through the visa process. In general, Ramesh is incredibly modest: he uses his credit card “just for groceries,” and pays it off immediately, “at least once a week.” He tells us one day he’ll buy a car when he needs it, “but nothing fancy.” He takes CalTrain or rides his bike everywhere. His major indulgence this summer was using his credit card (for sign up only, he paid in cash) to rent a car — an expense he split with 3 other friends — to visit San Francisco and watch 4th of July fireworks. “It was…fun. Then we got stuck in traffic.”
One of the major challenges in coming to the US is meeting new people; connecting with others when you have a language barrier (or even an “accent barrier”) can be challenging and intimidating. But according to Ramesh, “Indians are comfortable talking to everyone.” The Park Central apartments in Santa Clara became Ramesh’s IRL (that’s “in real life” for you non-millennials) social network where he met other international students grasping with the challenges of life in the US. He and his friends go clubbing on weekends in San Jose at Temple Bar but from the sound of it, this is less than 1% of his waking hours. You can see it in his eyes: he’s got work to do and doesn’t want to waste time. And yet he’s too kind to be rude about that fact.
Wrapping up our conversation at this outdoor cafe, the blaring sounds of the nearby CalTrain station occasionally interrupting us, Ramesh rubs his arms as the cool breeze turns chilly. The day is done but he clearly has work on his mind. “One of the things I love about the US is you don’t have to be at your desk until a set time. You finish your work and you can go home.” We hope for his sake he takes a break, but we have a feeling Ramesh will work long after the sun goes down.
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