top of page

America Calling:
A Foreign Student in a Country of Possibility

She Writes Press, Sep. 14, 2021


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.


Finalist, The Sarton Women's Book Award
Finalist, 2021 Foreword Indies Award
IPPY Bronze Award, Creative Non-fiction

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.

Media buzz for America Calling:

New York City

Praise for the book:

"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

"In America Calling, Rajika Bhandari captures the confusion and wonder of the international student experience of the sort she, I, and many others have shared. Sometimes funny, often moving, and always thought-provoking, Dr Bhandari's is a memorable story, and an enjoyable read." 

--Shashi Tharoor, Indian political leader, former Under-Secretary General of the UN, and best-selling author of 22 books including India: From Midnight to the Millennium and Beyond

"In these times, when vociferous politicians promote isolation and nativism by vilifying immigrants, including the highly educated, Rajika Bhandari presents a bold counter-narrative, sharing her deeply personal and eye-opening insights into the trials and tribulations of international students in America--and the great value they bring to the entire country."

--Helen Zia, activist and author of Asian American Dreams and Last Boat out of Shanghai: The Epic Story of the Chinese who Fled Mao's Revolution


"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


"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

“Through personal anecdotes and just the right amount of scientific data, Rajika Bhandari’s compelling memoir America Calling…points out some of the important contributions made by immigrants to the United States.” --Foreword Reviews


"America Calling is a timely and unique addition to immigrant literature. Bhandari weaves an evocative and compelling narrative of the power of education to connect and transform--an experience that resonates deeply with me as a first-generation immigrant and college student."
--Reyna Grande, award-winning author of A Dream Called Home and The Distance Between Us

"...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."

--Midwest Book Review


“Dr. Rajika Bhandari starts with her personal journey as an Indian student in the United States and broadens out to support a universal truth: The U.S. is better off economically and culturally with the rich diversity, mingling of ideas, and expertise brought by international students to American campuses and society. A touching and insightful must-read.”

--Lenora Chu, journalist, Chinese education expert and award-winning author of Little Soldiers: An American Boy, a Chinese School and the Global Race to Achieve.


"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


"By turns analytical and heartfelt, Rajika Bhandari's account of her educational journey in the United States serves to illustrate the unique melange of opportunities and hardships international scholars face in this country. As an immigrant with an educational background that spans two continents myself, I see an element of universality in Bhandari's narrative that transcends culture and national origin. The themes of this book are particularly relevant, given NYU's vibrant international character. America Calling is an engaging and timely read that will resonate strongly amongst the global academic community.

- Andrew Hamilton, President, New York University and former Vice Chancellor, University of Oxford

"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)


“America Calling is a one-of-its-kind book, relevant to both students aspiring towards an American education as well as to educators all over the world. In the near future, the US is poised to remain one of the most sought-after destinations for tertiary education: international students will continue to migrate to this educational hotspot and support the American economy. Rajika’s book is a tremendous contribution to the literature on this global trend, not only from a political perspective, but also from a deeply personal standpoint.”

--Pramath Raj Sinha, Founding Dean of Indian School of Business and co-founder of Ashoka University


"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

"Rajika Bhandari seamlessly weaves the threads of a deeply personal journey into the larger fabric of the exhilarating possibilities and debilitating pitfalls facing international students in the U.S. Her book vividly evokes the dual transformations at the individual and personal level for international students, and at the national level for the United States. A rich testament to the importance of international students and their aspirations, America Calling is also an important addition to the story of the Indian diaspora in the U.S."

--Devesh Kapur, Starr Foundation Professor of South Asian Studies, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and award-winning co-author of The Other One Percent: Indians in America


For campuses, high schools, and book clubs:
Download a Reading Guide for America Calling

bottom of page