Dedication and Sacrifice: An international student’s educational journey

APIDA student leader Maanvee Mehrotra talks of her experience of culture shock and finding her voice at Sac State


Business administration major Maanvee Mehrotra at Sacramento State on March16, 2022. Mehrotra is an Indian international student and a peer mentor for the Asian Pacific-Islander and Desi-American Center. Photo by Michael Pacheco

Michael Pacheco, Staff Writer

At home in India where she was born, Maanvee Mehrotra lived in the village of Hatod. She had to be dropped off at school 30 minutes away every day until the age of 10. 

“It doesn’t seem like a big deal here, but back home it’s a huge deal just to go to school 30 minutes far away,” she said.

 Mehrotra, a 21-year old business administration major, remembers the sacrifices that her parents made to get an education for their children.

Seeing that it would not work out in the long term, Mehrotra’s parents decided to send their kids to boarding school in Gwalior. She spent eight years at an all-girls boarding school which she said her entire life was structured around.

“We had a perfect schedule throughout the day, we had something to do all the time,” she said. “We went to school, did sports and grew up together.”

Mehrotra said she gained a strong sense of independence during her time in boarding school, but also felt that it inhibited her naturally vocal personality.

“People used to hold me back a lot,” she said. “They used to be like, ‘oh you talk a lot’ or, ‘you’re very opinionated.’”

 Mehrotra finally found her voice at Sacramento State, and now seeks to help others find theirs, according to her. She currently serves as a peer mentor for the Asian Pacific-Islander and Desi-American center, which is set to have a physical location on campus soon.

In February, Mehrotra was a student speaker for a webinar regarding Asian stereotypes and the model minority. She mentioned at the event how she spent much of her childhood away from home to attend school.

“I went to a boarding school for eight years,” she said. “Most of my life I spent in a boarding school from grade five through high school graduation.”

Business administration major Maanvee Mehrotra with her father Maneesh. She credits her family with instilling her with a strong work ethic. (Photo courtesy of Maanvee Mehrotra)

After graduating high school in 2018, Mehrotra said she felt some pressure from her parents to go to college somewhere in the United States, which she was initially reluctant to do since she had already spent a significant amount of time away from home.

“I didn’t want to go, really, but I didn’t know what to do,” Mehrotra said. “I didn’t want to stay in India with how things are and since I was in boarding school, I was very protected. I just felt not ready for the outside world.”

Having spent time in the US to take the Preliminary SATs, Mehrotra already had a student visa to attend school and ultimately decided upon Sacramento State as her school of choice.

One of the first people Mehrotra met at Sac State was marketing graduate Lovepreet Kaur, who said she was initially very shy.

“My first impression of Maanvee was that she was very introverted but wanted to explore more at the same time,” Kaur said.

Maanvee Mehrotra (right) with her brother Prabhav (left) and mother Parveen (center). Mehrotra and her brother spent most of their youth in boarding school to pursue their education. (Photo courtesy of Maanvee Mehrotra)

According to Mehrotra, coming to Sac State gave her a large dose of culture shock. The biggest surprise to her was the openness of the LGBTQ+ community compared to India, which has a relatively negative stigma towards same-sex couples and gender identity.

According to Mehrotra, early in her college career, she had an openly gay professor who was preparing to get married which would likely have been unacceptable in India.

“I went to an all girls boarding school, and I remember being told, ‘you might be like that, but you cannot be like that’,” she said.

Presidential aide Julia Jimenez Yamamoto first met Mehrotra during the 2019 school year when they interviewed Mehrotra for a student employee position. 

Jimenez Yamamoto noted Mehrotra’s strong work ethic and drive for success as they helped her achieve her initial goal of expanding her networks on campus.

“Within months she had made connections with various individuals from the campus community,” Jimenez Yamamoto said. “As a result of her determination, she became well-known across campus and is making an impact at Sac State.”

As an employee of the President’s Office, Mehrotra worked closely with Sac State President Robert Nelsen who noted her dedication to her job and her ability to keep cool under pressure. 

“I trust Maanvee, she is a Hornet with a Hornet heart,” Nelsen said via email. “In her job at the front desk of the President’s Office, she answers phone calls from many people who are angry. She never loses her cool.”

He also noted Mehrotra’s contributions when the campus was closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“During the pandemic, Maanvee was virtually the only student worker here in Sacramento Hall,” Nelsen said. “She came in every day, sat down behind the plexiglass, and patiently answered the phones.”

Business administration major Maanvee Mehrotra on her laptop in Tahoe Hall at Sacramento State on March 16, 2022. Mehrotra is a peer mentor for the Asian Pacific-Islander and Desi-American Center. (Photo by Michael Pacheco)

This semester, Mehrotra was hired to be a program lead for the APIDA center to help with the planning and scheduling of events, acting as a spokesperson or filling in for other roles when needed.

According to her, one reason Mehrotra joined the organization was to help bring in more diversity and  representation for the APIDA community, especially in regards to who can identify as “Asian.”

“People in America, from my experience, only think Asians are Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Filipino,” Mehrotra said. “When they are also Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, you know?”

Student Academic Success & Educational Equity Programs coordinator Dr. Chao Vang said Mehrotra made great strides in providing greater outreach to the APIDA community at Sac State.

“Her compassionate nature and humanistic approach to ensuring her Indian culture and heritage is part of the Hornet experience is commendable,” Vang said. “She provides great insight into culturally relevant and responsive programs all APIDA students need to be successful.”

After graduation, Mehrotra said she hopes to leave her mark on campus, be a force of positive change for international students like herself and make the pathway to success easier for the next generation.

“When I came to Sac State, there were things that I saw, things that I wanted people to change,” she said.

Another one of Mehrotra’s stated goals is to bring the vocal mindset that she learned at Sac State back home to India to help with women’s advocacy, which would give a voice to those that might feel they have none.

“Back home the way society is, they were stopping me from saying anything,” Mehrotra said. “Here, the louder I say something, the more people hear it, and they want me to get louder, to amplify it.”