By Christian Rosario / Editor-In-Chief and Jorge Moran / Staff Writer
Eight years ago Dhruv Patel came to the United States, leaving behind his homeland for a better—and very unfamiliar—future.
Growing up in a small village in India, Patel had access to only basic technology for much of his life. Around the village were cyber cafes, but the computers only had slow landline connections; and in his classrooms, he would sometimes do school work on computers, but only for Microsoft Word.
His first time playing around on a computer was in the 7th grade when he worked on an assignment in the school’s library. “I immediately found it fascinating how everything worked (in the computer),” he said. “I was always interested in computers, even in India, just because it’s the type of person I am.”
Now, as an Accounting major and the Vice President of Finance for both Rotaract and Student Government Association (SGA) at Raritan Valley Community College, Patel’s schedule revolves around computers. He is constantly on Microsoft Excel for classes and to keep track of RVCC club and organizations’ budgets, and in his free time, he enjoys learning how computers work and playing online strategy games.
On the outside, Patel appears comfortable in this new culture at RVCC, and is not hesitant about joining strangers in student activities. In the past year, he has been active in two organizations at RVCC: Enactus and Rotaract. In Enactus, he volunteered in “Let’s Can Hunger,” a food drive for urgent hunger relief. In Rotaract, he has become a global inducted member, an honor given to those who complete 15 hours of service work.
Even though he has adjusted to this new life, Patel is still sometimes confused by American culture. When he arrived in the United States, Patel knew nothing about the country, except that it was “the land of opportunity,” and it had the Statue of Liberty, which he saw in the movie "Home Alone."
The first major difference he noticed in American culture was in the diversity of the people. “There are so many different cultures from all over the world (in the United States),” Patel said. “I never saw that before. In the village I grew up in, almost everybody was from the same background.”
Another difference is in the in the way schools operate. In India, he disliked the idea that, “In school there were no lockers, no sports, no school activities or school clubs, except for recess.” Consequently, when he came to the United States, he promptly joined his high school’s environmental, physics and track clubs.
Patel, a strong follower of Hinduism and strict vegetarian, often has trouble finding American food he can enjoy. The first time he went to Wendy’s was only one year ago, and was a problematic experience. “At first, the menu was intimidating for him because he had no idea what was in each meal,” said Joel Reyes, who was with him at the time. "After some time and careful thinking, Dhruv finally ordered something, which he enjoyed, and said was 'a lot of food!'"
Patel’s Hindu beliefs also tie into his work in SGA. “Dhruv has very respectful manners for others, especially elders, and that has much to do with his religion. He adds unique insight to the team through his diversity,” said DeAnna Nicholson, SGA’s Vice President of Info and Media.
As vice president of finance for SGA, Patel wants to make the budget process easy when student clubs and organizations are requesting money. He said whether a student visits him in Student Life or stops him in the hallway, he will take his time to explain the process using simple words.
Patel wants to also work toward making SGA “better” than it was in the past. “To make this year’s SGA better than past years, I am willing to cooperate with students, listen to their concerns and work along with them,” he said. “I hope to start new club events, and to make a long standing connection between SGA and clubs.”
Everything he does while attending RVCC, Patel believes, is great practice for his major and for when he sets off for the “real” world. He wants to take this knowledge to Rutgers University of Business, where he will be working towards a Bachelor’s in Accounting. His plan is to then earn a Certified Public Accountant license in New Jersey.
Patel advises new students to similarly make the most of their time at RVCC. “Go to Student Life and ask about all the clubs. Try to find something that takes your interest. Go to meetings and get involved. Sometimes it’s good to set your mind aside from books and academic materials."
"Take advantage of this. Not everybody has a chance for these extracurricular opportunities.”