Editor’s Note: Before I got a chance to sit down with Datta I was first introduced to him through his Flickr page, and his photography. That’s him in the photo above, and in fact he took every photo in this post. His images are truly organic and really breathtaking, which made me want to learn more. When we met, the conversation ran the gamut from his interest in photography, business to college life. I decided to turn this into a full document instead of an interview transcript, just to make it more fluid, but let’s dive into the conversation!
Go check Datta out on Flickr: flickr.com/dattaprakash
Please welcome in Datta, and enjoy!
Datta Prakash – a master of information systems (MIS) student – has an incredible knack for the arts along with a passion for business (coupled with an undergraduate focus in enigineering). But before we go any further with this story, check out another one of Datta’s photos (all the images in this post are his photography). This one (below) is Datta’s capture of a magnificent lion:
Wow, right? And what a reminder of how important it is to not take for granted the variety of beauty that is around us. Scenery and nature really paint a beautiful picture of where we are. For most of us at NIU, the majority of us have lived our whole lives in the U.S. Not so for Datta, who was born and raised in India.
As he ventured to the United States for the first time, he brought along his undergraduate engineering degree and his camera and embarked on a new adventure he most likely will never forget. This was only one month ago. I’m fortunate to have had a chance to sit down with him and find out how his transition to NIU has been so far. And also to welcome him to the U.S. and into the Huskie family.
You can imagine the first question in my mind: how did he even know about NIU all the way in India? I have to admit that what Datta shared about NIU’s reputation in India was really cool to hear.
“In India, the NIU degree is well known and sought after,” Datta said. “Also, employers back home know that when a student completes a master degree in the USA, they really have someone special.”
And getting that confirmed by a friend doesn’t hurt either.
“I have a friend who is enrolled in master coursework here. We stayed in touch while I was in India. So I’ve heard a lot of good things from him about what he has experienced firsthand at NIU.”
That feedback was enough to convince Datta. That, and a review of the college website and a comparison against a couple of other schools just to verify that NIU’s curriculum and classes were much better suited to his interests. And they are.
Now fast-forward to a month ago – only ONE month ago – when Datta traveled half way around the world to a country where he knew only one other person.
“It was a little intimidating,” Datta admitted, when asked what it was like to travel alone half-way around the world to a place where he didn’t know many people. “But my friend who was already here helped me to meet other people. Everyone has been very nice. I quickly broadened my circle of friends.”
And he quickly found an apartment near campus, allowing him to rest easy about housing worries so he could concentrate on the boatload of information systems classes he signed up for. Talk about a whirlwind right? It’s hard to put myself in those shoes. Not knowing some of the people at a new school is one thing, but going to a whole new country and then starting your master degree on top of it must have been a huge challenge.
If that was true for Datta, you wouldn’t know it. Right off the bat Datta jumped into university life. His long list of things to do includes going to Rocky Mountain National Park for the first time and representing NIU’s cricket club in the upcoming American College Cricket Tournament. Right away he’s utilizing the Cricketing skills he honed in India when he was Captain of his Methodist College team there.
Datta also plans to get back to his roots, back to his instinct to photograph life. He’s entirely self-taught in this art and instinctively seeks out the world to capture what it reveals.
His travel plans here include visiting many states (and definitely the Grand Canyon!) and taking in as much of the country as he can … much like his approach in India (the location for the vast majority of his photos so far). His favorite mode of transportation when it comes to sightseeing? Hikes or long walks. Some of his journeys in India were so long in fact that his family would force him to come home otherwise risk losing him to the wilderness and his camera.
Speaking of which, you sense from his images that Datta has seen a lot, including a variety of different cultures.
This led me to ask about the differences he may have noticed now that he has settled into the United States. I find it fascinating to see the country I have always lived in through someone else’s eyes who has only been here a month.
It was intriguing to hear that the social interactions here – things like people in Barsema Hall saying hello and good morning – happen much more frequently than they do in India. Particularly because our society is always “plugged in” and distracted by so many different devices.
“The United States is much more organized – even if there are many devices and distractions, as you say – than what I’ve seen in other places. The roads, the traffic, the way people do things. It’s much more orderly. People are polite to each other,” Datta elaborated. In terms of university life, he shared the same observation. “Clubs and teams and diversity centers…there’s just so much more to get involved with here. All of it is organized so clearly. And Greek Life…well, that’s something I’ve never seen before.”
There was one surprising thing that Datta was very familiar with before he arrived in the U.S. He’s well broken into the music space, specifically hard rock and heavy metal. Metallica, Pantera and Iron Maiden are his favorite bands that he listens to all the time. We had a very nice moment where music really brought us together. In an instant we both related to the same bands and the same interests. Seems like a world away, but really when we take the time to discover it, there’s a lot we all share in common.
and passion for new ideas really stands him apart.
I think it’s only fitting to leave you with more from Datta himself when asked how tough it was to go 100% on his own to a place he had never been:
“Change in life is something that makes you grow. I’ve been an introvert most of my years so far but I always had that interest to explore new places, travel alone and learn to adapt myself to different environments. I faced the same problems just like a typical foreign student would face initially, but life’s getting easier because I am learning to get adapted to this new country by being more expressive and interactive than I used to be. I still do miss my home country’s food though (smiles).” (Datta explained that his hometown of Hyderabad is known for having the best food in India. Here’s hoping that maybe DeKalb will continue to offer more diverse food as time goes on!)
Thank you all for joining me on this great interview, and I hope you found it as interesting as I did.
Thank you again, and as always, doesn’t forget to be awesome today.
PS. I had to include just a couple more photos from Datta. Do check out his flickr account (link at the top of the post) for more. He is just truly amazing, I will be getting lessons from him soon for sure.
Seriously, go check him out. You’ll be glad you did. ~ Louie