America Calling:

A Foreign Student in a Country of Possibility

Publication date: September 14, 2021

She Writes Press

International students and immigrants have been the secret ingredient in America’s recipe for global success. America Calling shares one immigrant’s story, a tale that reflects millions more, and shows us why preventing the world’s best and brightest from seeking the American Dream will put this country’s future in jeopardy.

Growing up in middle-class India, Rajika Bhandari has seen generations of her family look westward, where an American education means status and success. But she resists the lure of America because those who left never return; they all become flies trapped in honey in a land of opportunity. As a young woman, however, she finds herself heading to a US university to study, following her heart and a relationship.


When that relationship ends and she fails in her attempt to move back to India as a foreign-educated woman, she returns to the US and finds herself in a job where the personal is political and professional: she is immersed in the lives of international students who come to America from over 200 countries, the universities that attract them, and the tangled web of immigration that a student must navigate.


An unflinching and insightful narrative that explores the global appeal of a Made in America education that is a bridge to America’s successful past and to its future, America Calling is both a deeply personal story of Bhandari’s search for her place and voice, and an incisive analysis of America’s relationship with the rest of the world through the most powerful tool of diplomacy: education. At a time of grow­ing nationalism, a turning inward, and fear of the “other,” America Calling is ultimately a call to action to keep America’s borders and minds open.

New York City

Advance Praise:

"In adding her voice to the immigrant experience, Rajika reminds us that everyone has a story to tell and that everyone's story counts. It is books like this that make America a kinder and wiser nation. Highly recommended for high schools and colleges."

--Firoozeh Dumas, New York Times bestselling author of Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing up Iranian in America

"As the U.S. veers ever closer to nationalism, there are clear voices guiding us back to what the country once aspired to: a country where the best and brightest in the world could have a shot at a better future. Rajika Bhandari is one such voice, urging us with moral clarity and rigorous intelligence to embrace immigrants in higher education. This book tells a personal story and a wider one too, it's a clarion call for the nation's policy makers and educators, to welcome into the nations ranks any and all curious minds willing to join in the pursuit of an education."


--Maeve Higgins, New York Times columnist, award-winning author of Maeve in America: Essays by a Girl from Somewhere, and host of hit podcast Maeve in America: Immigration IRL and StarTalk


"An Indian woman’s wonderfully written, illuminating account... a valuable study of an extremely important area of “soft diplomacy,” dispelling all sorts of easy and false assumptions. Bhandari’s informative memoir is for readers who want to understand how interconnected the world really is. Bhandari is a very talented writer, knowing that in a sea of data there is no better life raft than the telling anecdote."

--Kirkus Reviews

"...far more than a singular memoir of one Indian student's experience, but a wider-ranging embrace of the various social, cultural, political, and educational challenges that all readers should know in order to completely understand the choices, processes, and rigors of being an international student in America...Anyone who has wondered about the modern immigrant experience and perceptions of coming to this nation to fulfill dreams will find America Calling: A Foreign Student in a Country of Possibility a lesson in adaptation, advantage, and revised futures."

--D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review


"Rajika Bhandari offers a roadmap to the many who have come, and the many who will be drawn to America, in search of educational and other life-affirming professional opportunities. It is deeply personal and yet fully illustrative of the many shared experiences of generations that continue to enrich a nation built by and for immigrants." 


--Raju Narisetti, founder of Mint newspaper, and former Managing Editor at The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal


"Through this intimate account of her own journey, Rajika Bhandari tells the story of the millions of young people who pursue the dream of an American education, the price they pay, the irreversible transformation they undergo, and the often misunderstood, under-appreciated, yet immense social and economic value they bring about. While she grew up in Delhi and I in Madrid, her story is, in many ways, mine too."

-- Angel Cabrera, President, Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) and a Carnegie Corporation "Great Immigrant"


"Seeking an international education takes courage, as Cervantes reminds us. But it’s not a quixotic venture. As Dr Bhandari ‘s story illustrates, the windmills of the mind can be overcome, and the arc of educational exchange bends toward open doors and open minds."

-- Allan E. Goodman, President and CEO, Institute of International Education (IIE)


"Rajika presents a very personal and fascinating story of the trials and tribulations of a foreign student coming to the U.S. She explains why the world’s brightest flock to American shores and boost its competitiveness—and why they are now returning home. She is right that if America doesn’t correct the exodus, it will be the greater loser."

-- Vivek Wadhwa, Distinguished Fellow, Harvard Law School, Labor and Worklife Program, best-selling author of The Immigrant Exodus: Why America is losing the global race to capture entrepreneurial talent


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