By Angela Hatcher, Senior Staff Writer

First-year Darshini Parthasarathy’s  footsteps are loud and bold and you can hear her ID card swinging with a jingle from the lanyard around her neck as she walks around Peabody Hall.

She usually comes in with a bang —strutting into a room laughing or waving at one of her friends and running to them while squealing excitedly.

Her large black-and-yellow prescription glasses always sit on top of her wavy, black hair. She can typically be found wearing her favorite pair of leggings, a hoodie and her cherished Batman scarf.

While she should be studying, she is more often watching anime or “Sherlock,” instead.

She is always the first person to introduce herself to a stranger.

“Hey I’m Darsh! Nice to meet you,” she’ll say, even though the other person clearly has their nose buried in a book. “What’s your name?”

Strangers almost always greet her with a smile as she passes by.

Although she is far from home, she rarely lets sadness and the longing to see her family ruin her cheery outlook on life.

And she is very far from home.

The flight from Ohio to Abu Dhabi is 24 hours, including layovers. It’s a tedious trip, and not one she gets to make often during the school year.

But her smile never fades. She surrounds herself with people, making friends everywhere she goes.

Encounters with Darsh often lead to the question, “Where are you from?” Her slight accent often marking her as ‘foreign.’

“Abu Dhabi,” she’ll say.

The follow up questions is almost always, “What part of India is that in?”

In response, Darsh simply tries not to roll her eyes.

“No one knows where Abu Dhabi is,” Darsh chuckles. “Like does that sound like a place in India? Not so much. Basic geography!”

Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates. It’s roughly 70 miles from Dubai and over 1,500 miles away from India.

Darsh is always a little nervous when people ask her where she is from. Abu Dhabi is her home. But the question is easily answered with ‘Dubai’ or ‘India’ —places that people will recognize by name and won’t be confused about.

But the confusion is understandable and Darsh recognizes that. Although she was born and raised in Abu

Dhabi, she is Indian and remains, for all legal purposes, a citizen of India.

Her family hails from Chennai, the capital of the Tamil Nadu state.

“I identify as an Indian because that is what I am,” Darsh said. “I am Hindu. I am not Muslim. But I grew up surrounded by both Arab and Indian culture, so I understand how those influences influenced me.”

Darsh speaks Tamil, a language native to Chennai. She speaks very little Arabic. She has an Indian passport. Abu Dhabi is a culturally rich metropolitan city, dominated by no singular group of people, but rather enriched by the influences of many diverse peoples. It’s unique, just like its residents.

And Darsh speaks flawless English.

“People are always so surprised I speak English so well,” she said. “America is not the only place where people speak English fluently. Come on, people!”

While Darsh misses her parents and family, she is used to being away from home.

For grades seven through 10, Darsh attended the Velammal International School in Chennai. Her classmates and professors knew her as the jokester and trouble maker.

There was never a dull moment in a classroom with Darsh. She did everything she could to make sure her classmates and peers had a smile on their face.

“Everybody basically loved me,” Darsh said.

She is a psychology major with a minor in photography. She loves people — understanding them, being with them and capturing them in their finest moments.

“I see things better through a lens,” Darsh said. “I see more. I see people for who they are, not just what they look like.”