Who gets to define what “America” means? Politicians get a lot of air time. We wanted to hear what “the people” think. So in Fall 2021, we launched a contest asking UConn students to tell us what “America” means to them. We received a diverse array of responses in the form of short essays, creative writing, poetry, photography, and other forms of original artwork, from students across UConn’s schools and campuses. Of these, eight winners rose to the top based on their originality, creativity, and quality.
View the video below to hear Honorable Mention winner Rianka Roy read her poem “Coming to America” and discuss the inspiration for this work.
“Coming to America”
Graduate Student, Department of Sociology
Class of 2024
As I stood at the airport, waiting for the doors to open to a new land, I held
My breath in suspense and awe. A man behind the counter was checking my papers.
Embracing an odd courage that I never knew I had, I
Recalled in wild excitement what I had read about this land. I remembered how
Immigrants, thousands and thousands before me,
Crossed perilous borders. Legal and illegal paths merged
And mingled into a dream of many colors whose borders were never real.
I was walking those paths. I was in history. I would be another brown streak on the canvas. But do
Sleeping children see their mothers, who live on the other side of a wall?
A wall made of bricks so heavy that they can pull your souls down to the dark depth of a pond.
Do I dare cross these bridges? Do I have the keys? Who do I have to walk with me?
Real histories are written in the sands of time, but are the grains too fine to see?
“Enter, please. Here’s your passport. Welcome to America.”
An ‘alien’ forever, perhaps legal, perhaps not.
My journey begins. Like others, I too shall build my destiny.