My family keeps me centered, always reminding me of my goals and making sure I am eating right! Culturally, in India, family extends beyond my parents and includes a large group of cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. It can be hard to keep in touch with them, especially when the time difference means it’s always the wrong time of day for either (or both) countries. Still, I believe it’s easy to find pockets of time in the week for catchups.

I’ve never acknowledged the role of technology in helping us stay connected internationally as much as I have in the last few years. I’ve heard stories about uncles immigrating to the United States back in the early 2000s, where they could only afford to call home for a few minutes every couple of weeks. My mother would tell me about how she got less than thirty seconds on the phone with her brother before she’d have to relinquish control to another eager family member. It still amazes me I can dial home on a whim—whether I’m excited to share the smallest or craziest thing that happened to me, or to have a serious conversation about classes, finances, or visas.

Those spontaneous exchanges really do come at the most random moments! If I’ve defied all expectations and find myself early for my 9 a.m. class, I’ll call my mom. I also know to expect hers at exactly 10:50 p.m. Eastern Time as she makes her way to class in her morning as a teacher. If I am walking back from the Rec Center late at night, I’ll speak to my best friend from back home for ~8 minutes (how long it takes me to complete that tumultuous journey!). He’ll know I’m there to quickly say hi, yet he will lay down lore from his life that has me circling my apartment building and excitedly devouring his stories. Unexpectedly, certain unconventional forms of communication with other family members have turned out to be successful. Sending Instagram reels to my sister with relatable content (which almost guarantees a less funny reel in response) is a great way for me to stay connected. It’s these little moments that count toward staying in touch! 

For conversations that need to be more planned out, I’ll usually make time for them while doing my chores. Whether it’s folding clothes or cooking for the week, I know these activities make the perfect time to speak to my grandfather, who only needs a minute’s notice to launch into an hour-long recollection of his escapades. I try to chat with my grandmother while I am cooking an Indian breakfast so she is part of my process. She can tell by the sound of the stove whether my oil is too hot; it’s a wonder she’s able to pick that out amongst the cacophony of pots clanging together! Plus, I’m always hoping to learn more tricks of the trade. Sometimes, usually on Saturday evenings, the entire extended family gets on a group Zoom as my mother excitedly reads the newest children’s book she’s found for her school children. It’s moments like these that count the most for me and serve up a slice of home.

Sometimes, it can get a bit much: whether it’s me having a particularly stressful day, or the person I’m talking to isn’t fully present in the conversation. But it’s important to accept these little glitches in routines as anomalies; it would be detrimental if one was to give up at the smallest roadblock. It takes effort to carry these conversations, but it’s effort you need to make. I am sure the ‘need’ for this effort will quickly disappear as you slip into another conversation that has you rolling on the floor laughing, pondering a deep thought, or just wanting to learn more!  

Having diverse methods of communication makes the distance easier for me to handle and is a constant reminder of a support system I can rely on. This network props me up as I explore life in a new country. They are a group that have sacrificed so much to send me here and are people I am excited to ‘write home’ to. It’s important to me they remain in my life, and communication lays the foundation for this relationship.  

My family on holiday!