I thought if I could go abroad, I could expand my horizons.: Becoming Minnesotan

Ram Gada and Preeti Mathur, IAM Oral History Project 3 celebration, 2002.
  • Name - Ram Gada
  • Age at interview - 53
  • Gender - Male
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 12.07.1994
  • Michael Fox, Ram Gada and Ashoke Mandal, IAM Oral History Project 3 Celebration.

    Asian Indian, Education, Work

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    Essential Question

    Coming to America: What did coming to America symbolize for this person?

    Push & Pull Factors: Why did this person come to the U.S.?

    Words to look for

    Background Information

    India’s economy has often struggled over the past 100 years.  Under British rule, they lost much of their wealth as the British destroyed the local economy to fuel its Industrial revolution.  Even after gaining its independence from Great Britain in 1947, it took many years for India to build up its economy.  In the early years of independence the Indian government employed many of people, but jobs were still limited.  Because India is such a huge country with so many different ethnic groups, there has been a lot of competition for the few jobs that there are.  People sometimes have to move far away from family members in order to find a job.  Other Indians come to the U.S. to attend college or graduate school.  Some students end up staying in the U.S. after graduation if they find work. 

    To learn more about Asian Indian history and culture, visit our Asian Indian Community page.

    • Chapter 1

    Download Ram Gada 4
    3:34 Minutes | 3.42Mb


    Narrator: Ram Gada (RG)

    Interviewer: Polly Sonifer (PS)

    PS:  When did you first start to think about leaving India?

    RG:  Not until the later part of 1963.

    PS:  And how old were you then?

    RG:  I was 23.  I had finished my bachelor's of engineering degree at the School of Engineering. I was working with Premier Automobile in Bombay.  I was there for about 3-4 months and I started thinking about going abroad.  I didn't see much future.  I thought if I could go abroad, I could expand my horizons with a better position.

    PS:  When you thought about going abroad, what would you do?

    RG:  Well, you had to get the college admission, and then you had to collect the money to support yourself.

    PS:  How did you do that?

    RG:  Again, a social network in a sense.  There are some organizations who do provide loans and scholarships for proper, capable students.  I applied for that help and did get it, and some relatives also helped me.  When I came in, I had only two quarters' fees and two quarters' money.  So, I didn't have really much money.  But, I took a calculated risk. 

    A friend of mine who had come over here to Michigan State University wrote me and encouraged me to come.  I had raised all those questions, "How do I support myself and how do I come?"  He advised me to come during the spring quarter, go to school for one quarter, and then do a summer job.  That way I could earn the money for the two remaining quarters.

    PS:  So, as a student, you were allowed to work?

    RG:  Yes, but only during the summer; not during the school year.  So, I attended spring quarter at North Dakota State University, in Fargo in mechanical engineering.  Actually, I had come for industrial engineering and I had admission at North Carolina University.  But, I had a friend in Fargo, so my parents thought it would be a good idea to go someplace where I knew someone.  So, that's why I came to Fargo. 

    Also, I selected industrial engineering, but when I came to Fargo, the professor said that major would take two years to complete the master's degree.  I did not have money for two years; only for six months.  Then I would have to work, so I switched to mechanical engineering, which worked out pretty good.

    PS:   How long was that course?

    RG:  That was three quarters - nine months.  So, I attended the first quarter, and spent the money for that.  And then second quarter, which was summer, I worked in Minneapolis.  I did the engineering design at the consulting company.  At least, I knew how the business runs.  Then, I went back to Fargo school again, and finished in nine months.   So, the same company where I worked in the summer offered me a job.  So I came back, and I stayed with that company for 15 years!

    Related Glossary Terms


    Adverb:  Beyond the borders of a certain country; in foreign countries.


    Noun:  Power or permission to enter somewhere.

    consulting company / firm

    Noun:  A firm of experts providing professional advice to an organization for a fee.


    Noun:  The profession of applying scientific, mathematical, economic, social, and practical knowledge to design and build structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes that safely realize solutions to the needs of society.


    Verb:  To interact socially for the purpose of getting connections or personal advancement.  (networks, networking, networked)

    Noun:  An interconnected group or system.

    Definition coming soon.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access]. http://www.mnhs.org/immigration
    nid: 596