His own family is very tight. “Traveling around the country, visiting these colleges, I realized this would be a time of my life when I will not have readily accessible support from my family, and I’ll be hundreds of miles away,” he said.
So he was relieved when he stepped onto the Bowdoin campus and sensed he would feel comfortable here — that he would have a “family outside of my family and away from home.”
When Pandiyan was five, his parents left India for Chicago, eventually settling in Des Plaines, Ill. Neither of his parents has a four-year college degree. His mother is a hospital respiratory therapist; his father is a host at the same hospital.
Pandiyan’s parents have always emphasized the importance of obtaining a college degree, but Pandiyan had to convince them of the value of a liberal arts education. “For them, they were like, what would you do with a degree in the humanities? Or something that wasn’t engineering or medical school,” he said. “And I told them, you can do anything with a degree from a liberal arts college.”
Although students do not declare their major until sophomore year, Pandiyan said he knows he wants to focus on neuroscience. “It’s a very interdisciplinary subject: biology, chemistry, psychology all mixing up into this one subject,” he said. He also is interested in philosophy and English.
Pandiyan said he feels strongly that colleges like Bowdoin should continue to make its education accessible to first-generation students and students from under-represented groups. “Our stories need to be heard as well,” he said. “We provide a specific niche to this campus. Even though it is sometimes hard for us to feel like we fit in, we fit into this campus.”