Hello everyone! I am Ashanka Kumari, and as of a month ago, I reside in Lincoln, NE. I am an incoming masters student in English, Rhetoric and Composition and also a research assistant. I live near the capitol building and walk past it daily on my way to campus and downtown Lincoln. I’ve enjoyed walking around Lincoln, which is a big change for me because I come from places where driving everywhere is more customary.
Living here has been my first experience in the Midwest. I was born in Long Island City, NY, and moved to Muscle Shoals, AL, when I was nine years old. My memories of New York are of grandeur, my family’s apartment, and spending part of my days in the Greek restaurant where my dad worked. When my parents first told me we were moving to Alabama, images of pigs, cows, farm life, and overalls immediately clouded my mind. I asked my mother to purchase pairs of overalls because I assumed this was part of fitting into this new place, something I knew I would have to learn to do. I quickly learned that my TV-stereotyped thoughts were (mostly) incorrect. Sure, Alabama was different than New York, but small parts of Alabama made it special.
What I remember most about my childhood is traveling. My parents are native of India, so we flew there a few times, though since we moved to Alabama, I have not been back to India; however, I have done lots of traveling. My family also regularly travels to Canada since that is where my nearest relatives live. In middle school, I joined the band and began playing trombone. Through my experiences in band over the last 12 years, I have had the opportunity to travel all over America to states including California, Florida, and Texas and even Washington D.C. among many others. In other words, I have spent a lot of time on school and charter buses, which became like a third home for most of those years.
For my undergrad, I attended The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, AL, and was a member of the Million Dollar Band, which meant I was fortunate to witness three national championships firsthand in my four years at Alabama. (Roll Tide!) In my short time in Lincoln, I have felt at home because of the similar football culture and color scheme (Alabama’s colors are Crimson and White). Home was often the practice field I spent nearly a dozen hours on each week during the fall.
I also continued to travel outside of band through study abroad programs. I studied abroad in Florence, Italy during summer 2011 and then received the opportunity to intern at a luxury magazine in Barcelona, Spain during summer 2012. These travel ventures allowed me to see parts of Europe for the first time and experience a wide variety of new things.
For most of my last year at Alabama, I felt that I lived in the Office of Student Media. I served as Chief Copy Editor of The Crimson White newspaper for the year, which meant I spent 30+ hours a week at my desk, reading and editing articles for each edition as well as writing some pieces on the side. In the end, I earned my BA in English with a minor in Italian and my BAC in journalism with a minor in music after a very busy four years at The University of Alabama.
Though, if someone asks me where I am from today, I will tell them “Muscle Shoals, AL,” which is a small city that neighbors Florence, AL, which is more widely known. Muscle Shoals is known for the “Muscle Shoals Sound” and home of Fame Recording Studios. Many famous recording artists got their start in this small town. As a resident of the city, I tend to spend most of my time out in Florence, AL, because that is where all of the popular hangout places happen to be, though compared to Lincoln, Florence and Muscle Shoals are empty.
My idea of home is ever-changing. I feel that I adapt to new locations quickly and find myself constantly moving around, but for the next two years, I will be grounded in Lincoln.
Like many before me, I would like to conclude this introductory piece with my own version of the “I am from” poem:
I am from a small apartment in a big city,
From parents not native of the country.
I am from car rides, bus trips, and airplane adventures,
From taking pictures, visiting family, and creating new memories.
I am from Hinduism and daily prayers,
From celebrating holidays not on most calendars.
I am from discovering the library by accident,
From finding solace in pages and pages of words.
I am from playing and listening to music,
From watching hours and hours of television.
I am from a three-year continuing relationship with my best friend,
From love through trust and honesty.
I am from years of arguments with my brother,
Who I didn’t want at first, but wouldn’t trade for another.
I am from parents so supportive and patient,
From growing in America and different customs.
But now I am from entering academia,
Dealing with long distance and conquering fears,
One day at a time.