By: Daniel Funes
Upstairs you can find ELL (English Language Learners) Coordinator Vaidehi Sridharan-Banu in her room, at her desk, helping students succeed. She works closely with scholars who speak English as a second language to improve their English reading, speaking and listening to understand more about the world around them.
But surprisingly, she herself is not a native English speaker.
Born and raised in India, she lived in India most of her life. Until, that is, she began traveling the world. Her husband, Mr. M. Sridharan, is an Indian Diplomat currently working at the Embassy of India in Washington, D.C. His job requires him to travel very often and because of this, she has lived and worked in many corners of the world. India, China, Hong Kong, Fiji, and Washington, D.C. are among the many places she has called home.
“I lived in China for more than seven years,” Banu said. “Hong Kong three-and-a-half years, Fiji for three-and-a-half years, and now here in Washington, D.C.”
Though she’s lived in many countries, and though she said she enjoyed all of them, there is one in particular she favors the most. If she could go back anywhere, it would be to China.
“The people are so warm,” Banu said. “They take you as who you are. It’s a kind of cluster feeling. They recognize you are a part of them.”
Banu admitted that unlike in some other countries, China allows everyone to be a part of their culture. In the United States, or in other places she has lived, people who outsiders are required to learn about and assimilate into the dominant culture in order to be a part of the community. In China, all people are welcomed with open arms. All people in China, regardless of background, are looked at the same as if they were Chinese themselves.
“I adapted to the culture really quickly,” Banu said. “They also started treating us as one of them, so I loved that country.”
Banu started her career as a journalist, but eventually, made her way into teaching. Her two children played a role in this, as did her experience traveling internationally. She saw that kids who migrated to different countries did not know English, and she wanted to do as much as possible to help them learn. Even if that meant starting with her own children.
“When we moved to Beijing from India, my son could not speak a lick of English,” she said.
Though she’s been to many countries she would like to continue to travel.
“I would like to explore Europe!” Banu said.