Megana, a rising second year law student at Fordham University School of Law, is one of our summer associates. A merit scholarship recipient, she will serve on the Intellectual Property Law Journal this coming year, and was kind enough to share her immigration story.
Throughout my life, I’ve never really considered myself as anything but wholly American, despite my multicultural background. This is due largely to the widely different ethnic backgrounds of my parents and their families. My father is a third-generation Brooklyn Italian, while my mother is an Indian immigrant who eventually wound up in New York City. Though this background has led to some unique experiences (constantly confusing “marsala” with “masala”, for example, or the yummy treat that is naan pizza), overall I have a hard time thinking of myself as either Indian or Italian.
Tony Tuccillo, my great-grandfather on the Italian side of my family, was born an American citizen, but his parents brought him back to Italy when they decided that life in the United States was not to their liking. Tony found out about this later in life, and stowed away on a ship to cross the entire Atlantic to come back to New York, despite speaking barely any English and with little money to his name. He met my great-grandmother Mary, a first-generation Italian-American, in Brooklyn, and that’s where they established their roots, working very hard to bring up their five children.
My mother’s parents, on the other hand, worked and lived on a coffee plantation in southern India. My grandfather, B.J. Veerabhadrappa, had a grander vision for his life, and began to study to become a doctor. When my mother was only four years old, she and her parents moved to London, England so that my grandfather could attend medical school and complete his residency to become a cardiologist. My grandmother, Prema, had the burden of taking care of my mother while simultaneously having to adapt to a culture and language completely foreign to everything she had known growing up.
After my grandfather successfully obtained his degree, they moved again, this time to the United States in Maine. Once again, they had to adjust to a completely different lifestyle and set of customs. They moved several times to various locations along the East Coast, before they finally settled in Staten Island. My mother’s parents emphasized that her education was the most important thing to focus on, and she took this to heart, committing all her efforts and motivation to attending and graduating from both college and dental school. My mother’s two younger sisters, who were both born in New York, also pursued careers in the medical field. My grandparents’ accomplishments are absolutely awe-inspiring to me: from working and living on a coffee plantation in Kolar, India to bringing up three daughters with medical degrees in New York, all due to their perseverance, courage, and tireless effort.
Most of the records of my family’s heritage are probably still in Italy and India—even my parents don’t know many of the details of our ancestry. Neither of my parents are deeply entrenched in their respective backgrounds, with the exception of some cultural culinary traditions. They aren’t religious, despite coming from Roman Catholic and Hindu backgrounds, nor do they speak anything but English. Growing up, I spent much more time with the Italian side of my family simply because they lived in New York, while most of my Indian family is still in India. As a result, the Indian side of my heritage seems much more foreign to me, even though I’m a first-generation Indian American. I have never even been to Italy or India, although I am very eager to someday travel to both.
Considering the great difficulties my family overcame in coming to the US and establishing themselves, I am constantly impressed by how hard they worked to find success here. As clichéd as it sounds, I truly believe that both sides of my family have reached the “American Dream” ideal, through their determination, incredible effort, and sheer willpower. This is a constant reminder to me that hard work will always pay off, and has been a great source of motivation to me throughout my entire life.
Because of my ambiguous sense of cultural identity, I have always been fascinated by foreign languages and cultures. Even from a young age, I have always had a strong passion for finding out more about different cultural customs and traditions. I studied linguistics and East Asian language and civilization in college, hoping to learn more about how interacting with other cultures and languages changes the way we see the world.
This is ultimately what led to my interest in immigration law. When I first started law school, I had absolutely no idea what branch of law I would want to pursue; the options seemed infinite and overwhelming, and I really didn’t know what would suit me. So far, from my short time as an intern at this immigration law firm, I have come to realize how much of an impact an immigration lawyer can make on the lives of foreign nationals, and in turn, how much influence their work and ideas can have on American culture itself.
As a hobbyist artist myself, I have great respect for the tremendous value that new styles and techniques can have on every aspect of the art world. Being able to help artists from around the world come to the United States to learn and grow, while simultaneously contributing their own experience and perspective, is a truly meaningful and rewarding experience for me. Similarly, my appreciation for my family’s background and struggles that culminated in great success has given me incredible respect and admiration for the immigrants who come to this country, working impossibly hard to find a better life, and against all odds, succeeding.