Ramesh Nadavati '16 was born in Nellimanikandriga, a small village near the holy town of Srikalahasti in southern India. Now 23 years old, and thousands of miles from his native land and birth family, Ramesh has fulfilled his education goals and made some lifelong friends in the Flint community.
From a very early age, Ramesh was focused on his future. At age nine, in an attempt to simultaneously lessen the burden on his family and earn an education, he left home and entered a government-run hostel for young boys in India.
"I was born in a very small village in southern India where we did not have facilities like schools, bus stations, and electricity. Our community had about 100 people and 30 houses. No one from my village had ever attended college, and I wanted the opportunity to do that. So, when I was nine, I moved away from my family," said Nadavati.
The life Ramesh describes, living in the hostel for the next ten years, was not an easy one. He managed to excel at school by relying on determination beyond his years and a desire to make his family proud.
"I had a very hard time studying at the hostel when it would rain," he said. "The noise of rain on the roof was loud and water would pour into the building during the rainy season."
Despite adversity, Ramesh pressed on with his studies and became the first person from his village to receive a degree. In 2014, he graduated from the Shree Institute of Technical Education in India with a degree in electrical and electronics engineering and took a "good position" at a multi-national company. It was the sort of job with which many of his contemporaries would have been very happy, but it did not match the dream he had for his life and his family.
"The job I took after completing my education was good and many of my classmates would have been very happy with it, but I wanted to do more for me and my family. I wanted to do more to make them proud. So, after just one month, I quit and began to pursue my dream of an education in the United States of America," said Nadavati.
While keeping his intentions of attending graduate school in the U.S. secret from his parents, Ramesh began to review programs and quickly set his sights on the University of Michigan. His research led him to the UM-Flint campus and its growing international student population. He applied to other schools across the U.S., but UM-Flint was his first choice. Months later, he was accepted to several schools, including the top one on his list, UM-Flint.
"When I received my acceptance letter to UM-Flints Masters of Computer Science Program, I was so happy. I never even thought about attending the other schools," said Nadavati. "I knew where I was going to go."
Being accepted to UM-Flint was only the first step in Ramesh's journey to Flint. He still had several other challenges to overcome, such as telling his parents of his plans and finding the money necessary to finance his trip and his education.
"I did not tell my parents that I was planning to move to America until I had been accepted and had my visa in hand. I finally told my father, Nadavati Bhaskar Goud, of my plans and of the need for money to purchase my plane ticket. His response was to ask if I was joking," said Nadavati.
With the encouragement of Ramesh's older brother, Nadavati Subramanyam Goud, Bhaskar agreed to pay for the ticket, travelling five hours from home to purchase it and returning the next day.
"My older brother supported my dream to come to UM-Flint. He was a very good student as a young boy but left his education to work for the family," he said. "He never returned to school after that. I appreciated that he encouraged me."
With the transportation question now tackled, Ramesh needed to quickly finance the cost of his tuition.
"I went to the local bank and told them of my plans to go to America and pursue my master's degree. When the gentleman at the bank told me to fill out the paperwork and to wait 10-15 days, I told him I did not have 10 days to wait because my plane was leaving in 3 days. I don't know how it was that they processed and approved my loan, but they did it in just three hours. I went straight home, told my parents my loan was approved, packed my bag, and I flew out the next day. I had not slept for three days," he said.
Ramesh vividly recalls landing at Flint's Bishop International Airport in January 2015 and seeing snow and ice for the first time in his life, a common experience for many of UM-Flint's international students. Ramesh made his way to UM-Flint's International Center where he was welcomed and supported. The International Center assisted Ramesh in setting his schedule and introduced him to the professors with whom he would study.
"Everyone was so helpful from the time I arrived here. The staff were welcoming and the professors helped me get caught up," said Nadavati.
As would be expected from someone who left his family at such a young age in pursuit of an education, Ramesh focused almost exclusively on his schoolwork while at UM-Flint. He completed his master's degree in 18 months. During that time, he forged meaningful and lasting relationship with instructors that pushed him.
"Some of the greatest things about my education at UM-Flint have been the professors who encouraged me to challenge assumptions and taught me how to conduct research. I am excited to be publishing some of my research in the next year," he said.
Although Ramesh largely focused on his academics, he did take time to enjoy a few typical distractions like the occasional snowball fight with his roommates and getting involved with some campus activities. While at UM-Flint, he used his passion for dance to organize a performance that drew attention to the condition of Flint's Riverbank Park. He was also involved in organizing a dance show with the Indian Student Association, where he got to show off some of his best Michael Jackson moves.
Outside of his professors, Ramesh's strongest support came from his "U.S.A. home." Shortly after his arrival in the U.S., Ramesh was introduced to alumnus Jerry Rule '78, a well-known advocate for international students at UM-Flint. Rule, a local realtor and landlord, is often the first person recommended by classmates to new students seeking housing. Occasionally, Rule will even rent international students a room in his own home, as he did with Ramesh.
"Several weeks after I met Ramesh, I offered to rent him a room in my home," said Rule. "This situation ends up being similar to an exchange student program and we develop our own 'family' with each other. We celebrate holidays together, birthdays, etc."
"During the time Ramesh stayed in my home, I lost both of my parents. He and his roommate, Nikhil Palaskar, were there for me in that difficult time, and that meant a lot to me," Rule said. "Helping international students live together adds to their UM-Flint experience, and I know it has added to my life."
The respect and admiration between Rule and Nadavati is mutual. When asked about his impression of Rule, Nadavati said, "Mr. Rule has been kind to me and so many of the international students. He has made us feel at home here. He would take us to restaurants, to the grocery store, and even to job interviews. He treats us like we are part of his family, and I have become close to him and my housemates."
"When I recently received a job offer in Ann Arbor, Mr. Rule was the first person I called to tell," said a smiling Nadavati. "He also helped me get to work for the first three weeks, before I could move. I thank him so much."
Goals have guided Ramesh throughout his life and taken him on a journey far from his birthplace and his family. He has spent many years pursuing his education for the pride of his family and to "make them smile." After nearly two decades of pursuing his educational goals, he has done it. Nadavati will be graduating this December with a Master's Degree in Computer Science and Information Systems.
When asked about what drives him in his life, Nadavati said, "When I was eleven years old, I wanted to have my master's degree completed by the time I was twenty-three, and now I have done that. I believed my education would help me and it is what got me here."
"When I got admitted to UM-Flint I felt like I could do anything. I now feel like my family is happy, and I am qualified to live this life."
Rule summarized Nadavati slightly differently when he said, "That is the most self-motivated young man I have ever met in my life. I am lucky to have met him and UM-Flint is lucky to have had him here. He is one in a million."
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Brent is the Alumni Relations Manager in the Office of University Advancement. Contact him with questions related to alumni programs, activities, and services.