Project Title

Setting the Foundation

Submission Date

2021

Abstract

My parents have always joked that I come from a family of teachers. With three out of my four grandparents dedicating their life to teaching children, school played a significant role in my life. For as long as I can remember, education has always been important in my family. Both sets of grandparents pushed their children to obtain their college degrees and stand on their own two feet. My mother was the second person in her family to obtain a college degree. My own family was no different; my parents continually stressed the importance of doing well in school. Educational opportunities were so important to my parents that they uprooted their lives in Dubai to come to America to ensure that my sisters and I would be able to pursue whatever we put our minds towards. I credit much of my success today to the foundation that my grandparents and parents laid down for me, and for that, I could not be more grateful.

My first step in understanding my family history was to do genetic testing through 23andMe. Unsurprisingly, the results showed that I was 100% Malayali. My haplogroup, M4, was associated with individuals who came out of Africa and populated the coast of India and Southeast Asia. With the help of my grandparents and parents, I was then able to go back three generations and construct my family tree. The most important part of this project was the utilization of the family narrative. I spent a great deal of time talking to my grandparents and parents about their childhood and lives. I really enjoyed listening to my grandparents as they detailed stories about their childhood and life as young adults. I lost my paternal grandfather about one year ago and with him the majority of our family history and narrative. As such, this project highlighted the importance of writing down and categorizing the lives of those who lived before me. I had a deeper appreciation for the research process and am grateful for the time spent cultivating this personal narrative.

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The most memorable part of this project was spending time with my grandparents and hearing about their lives growing up. I have only ever seen and known them in the role of my grandparents. This project allowed me to ask about their childhood, young adult life, and married life. Following this, I think the largest gap in my personal narrative is information regarding the lives of my paternal grandparents. I did not have the same opportunity to reach out to them and would love to learn more about their lives in the future. I think this would best be accomplished by talking to my aunts and seeing if they have any insight. The most surprising thing that I uncovered during this project was that my mom was one of the first people in her family to go to college. My mom had never mentioned that she had to navigate higher education without adult guidance until now; however, learning about this provided a lot of context for my own experiences growing up. Overall, this project has resulted in a much greater appreciation for the journey taken for my own life and experiences to be made possible.

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