Sandhya van den Eijkhof, a 30-year-old woman from India, currently lives with her Dutch husband and three-month old daughter in Kirkland, Washington. She moved to the United States from Kochi, Kerala, India when she was 17 years old. At the time, her mother, who had been working as a nurse in the Middle East, sought work in America in order to bring their family back together again. The move to Chicago in 2002 provided this opportunity.
On that first day, Sandhya remembers the long, intimidating American immigration process as well as a chocolate cake to commemorate her first birthday in the U.S.
I’m Sandhya van den Eijkhof. I’m from Kerala, India. It’s a small state in the southwest of India by the ocean. I moved from there to Chicago in 2002. I was 17 years old. It was my dream to come to America and study here. I remember when I was in highschool looking at these college prospects, and America you see these, you know, American universities had these young people sitting in green grasses. And since then I just had this desire to come and study here and do my higher studies in this country. The flight was long, especially coming all the way from India. We came in and I remember it was a very long line at immigration. There had been people who couldn’t get through for whatever different reason. So we just didn’t know. I mean you never know with American immigration. And I do remember the officers really struggling to say my name cause they didn’t know how to pronounce it. I was definitely not used to that. I remember trying to correct them every time. “No, it’s Sandhya!” I think it was either the day of my birthday or the day after…which was fun. My mom and a family friend picked us up, and brought us to our new small one bedroom apartment. And I remember there was a chocolate cake there for me to cut and enjoy. So, it felt like a birthday gift…you know, coming here.