Freshman business major Siddhanth Pai grew up in Chennai, India, a city on the eastern coast of India with a bustling population of almost 5 million people.
With many schools to choose from, his parents sent him to The School K.F.I., a non-traditional school that differed greatly from its nearby competitors. It was here that Pai began learning English at a young age and charting his career path — a path that led him straight to Virginia Tech.
Pai, who also plays on the club golf team, is experiencing his dream come to life. His parents provided the financial means for Pai to study at Tech, providing him with a chance he would not have been able to have in India. The Collegiate Times sat down with Pai to learn more about his childhood, culture and experiences at Tech.
Collegiate Times: What was it like growing up in India?
Siddhanth Pai: It was quite different from the lifestyle I am living right now. At the school that I went to there wasn’t too much pressure; my first exam was in (grade) eight. Until the age of 12 or 13 I was just having fun. They make sure you are ready for the final exam in (grade) 12 and give you assignments to study for the exam. It’s heavier here — books are bigger, there’s more to study. I prefer this system because it makes you more disciplined. I was pretty laid back during school; if I got a job in India I would have been a laid back employee. I am extremely happy I got this opportunity at Tech and I want to make the most of it.
CT: Can you describe your school experience in India in more detail?
Pai: I feel that my school was the best school in the country; it is rated in the top 10. The founder of the school was a great philosopher. He is very well known for (quoting Mark Twain), "Don’t let school get in the way of your education." I was there since kindergarten; I have friends at other schools who cried because they had three exams a week.
CT: How did your school differ from other schools in India?
Pai: My school was a premier school. It was like 80 percent different from other schools. Mine was an English medium school and there were at least 15 others like that in India. The other schools studied Tamu, the main language. I’ve been learning English from lower kindergarten. People ask me how my English was so good, but my school taught it form kindergarten onwards.
CT: What was the culture like in India?
Pai: I feel there is a clear difference there between people who do mediocre work and people who excel in the best possible way. Some people go to just pass the class; they will not have a bright future. You need to push yourself, like a horse pushing through a race.
CT: What is the life like for those people who do mediocre work?
Pai: It is the worst possible life. The houses are not good; they are made with straw and have thatched roofs. The people make about $2 a day after working more than eight hours. You see a lot of beggars on the road. The country together is developing, though. People are getting more jobs and they are able to stand on their own feet.
CT: What would you and your friends do in your free time?
Pai: I would go to the beach a lot. We lived on the southeast coast, so the beach was only 10 minutes away. I would go to movies about once or twice a month. Once Xbox and PS3 came out, we would play a few hours a day and just snack on chips. When I was in (grades) five and six, we would play this game called cricket on the street. The cars would wait for us. We ruled the streets.
CT: Would you play with kids from other schools too?
Pai: We try not to treat them differently; we believe in equality. 50 years ago there was a group called the untouchables. If they drank out of a cup you couldn’t use it anymore. The government has done a lot for that, though, and it is almost completely gone. We would treat students at lower schools as visitors — play football with them.