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I am Sampathawaduge Anthony Mendis. I like to think I realize what you’re thinking right now, but it’s tough. Some individuals love my first name, some think it’s bizarre. Well, you’re not alone, I get tongue-tied trying to utter it myself, but from a cultural aspect, I adore it. My awesome long first name aside, I go by my middle name ‘Anthony’ nowadays. Aside from that, let me introduce myself appropriately. I was born on the little island of Sri Lanka in the beautiful city of Colombo. I was raised speaking 2 languages, which were English and Sinhala. At age 6, I began attending a private school, Lyceum International School, where the language of instruction was English. Hence, English became my first language and became a fairly eloquent language in my household. Sinhala, the native language of the Sinhalese people, was still a class I took in school, but was only intermittently used by me to respond to my parents’ occasional yak.

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Sri Lanka, the pearl of the Indian Ocean, is located in the heart of Southeast Asia, making it a magnificent island filled with rich culture, endless beaches, timeless ruins, hospitable people, oodles of elephants, fun trains, renowned Ceylon tea, and irresistible flavorful food. Whilst I’ve been privileged in many ways, I have had my share of trials and tribulations growing up in Sri Lanka. Ever since 2005, when I first started school, I slowly but surely started witnessing the treacherous effects of the ongoing civil war. The civil war broke in the north of Sri Lanka, Jaffna, resulting in the dislocation of hundreds of thousands of people island-wide. Hearing the bombs and seeing the images of destruction around me certainly impacted me. Nonetheless, the grander impact was working with my uncle to distribute essential aid to homeless families and refugees. I still reminisce about visiting one establishment where two families were confined to one small room but still managed to make the best of the situation by playing checkers and consoling each other. Working with these families was a wake-up call to how fortunate I was to be living in a two-story house at that time, free from peril and war around me. It was gratifying, and their suppleness was stimulating to 12-year-old me. It was inspiring yet eye-opening to see my uncle be such a role model. Our acts of kindness helped these families return home, and the destroyed areas were eventually reconstructed. This experience showed me the power of what a remarkable duo my uncle and I were to these lost souls. To this day, I take great pride in this act of generosity and charity I performed. I’m extremely proud of myself and who I turned out to be.

It was the year 2012, I was 13 at the time when I started hearing chitter-chatter about how proactive it would be for our family to migrate to the United States of America. The civil war had ended, but it had propelled the economy of the country to the utmost ground. Migrating to America seeking better opportunities and an improved lifestyle for lack of better words sounded prodigious. Consequently, me and my family migrated to America on November 3rd, 2014. It was exciting, it was a new beginning, and it was enthusing to a fellow xenophile such as myself. I’ve always been one to learn about various cultures and entice in the marvels of foreign people, manners, and languages. I had my fair share of culture shock as every other immigrant kid, it truly was a startling feeling because of how attached I was to the place that I came to know and love. Fortunately, I was blessed enough to speak English pretty well and understand the American culture, I won’t say it didn’t take time, but I’m delighted to be living the American dream. I believe the United States, more so than any other country, can offer a challenging, engaging, and rewarding college education with opportunities for exposure to a diverse range of students from across the globe, no matter what their life story is. And although the place of my growth is Sri Lanka, America is becoming my second home, the place of my further personal growth.

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