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The Journey of Two Sisters from Sri Lanka

Jun 20, 2016
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Saamia Aslam & Girish Sreevatsan Nandakumar

Passion for education means many things to different people. For some it could be spending hours at the library looking over notes and studying textbooks. For others it may be passing on social events to prepare for an upcoming exam. For Rajintha and Jayendrika Tiskumara, it means leaving their home country and traveling across the world to attend Old Dominion University.

Rajintha, the older sibling, is working towards a doctorate in electrical engineering, after earning her master’s in physics in 2013. Jayendrika has a master’s in physics, which she obtained this past spring semester, and is currently working to obtain her doctorate in physics.

The sisters voyaged all the way from Sri Lanka, a small island country just south of India. Rajintha described the weather back at home as tropical where the temperature consistently stays around 75 degrees.

The sisters found out about ODU’s international programs through friends in the U.S. These friends helped the two adjust when they arrived. For the two who had never lived on their own, having these people for support and guidance eased the transition into American life.

After arriving, Rajintha experienced more of a culture surprise than a culture shock. Through the help of the Global Student Friendship organization, she was able to find a host family to live with when she initially came here. The father of the family, who was an EVMS professor, looked out for Rajintha as if she were his own child. This led her to feel like she was back home. The family members were caring as well as concerned for Rajintha’s safety and well-being. They treated her like she was part of their own family. The parents had strong family values. “They were like my second family,” Rajintha said.

Rajintha is almost done with her education here and is about to start looking for jobs in both the U.S. and Sri Lanka.

Jayendrika came to America a few years after her sister to pursue her education. Fortunately, she had Rajintha to look to for support and guidance. The two sisters were inseparable, doing everything together. When apart from her sister, Jayendrika was the only Sri Lankan student in her physics class and program, which made her feel alone. The feeling of isolation left when she joined the International Student Advisory Board, which she later became the president of.

When asked what was different here from back home, Jayendrika replied that they do not have practical science-based facilities, such as the Jefferson Lab, in Sri Lanka. She also recalled how friendly the other international students were to her.

Overall, they both had an unforgettable time at Old Dominion. Thankful for all of those who have helped them along the way, the sisters agree that their ODU experience is one they will cherish forever.

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