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Interview of Victoria SISOUPHONE, an Youth Exchange student from USA

Victoria Sisouphone

Victoria P. SISOUPHONE is basically from Ithaca town of New York state, USA. Since July 2009, she is INDIA for a stay of 11 months under Rotary’s Youth Exchange Program. She learns Tabla here, teaches English accent to students in the school she’s attending. She is a black belt holder in Karate. She is a Thai and is the first generation in America.

In this interview she shares her views about INDIA. She also sings one Hindi song which is indeed very melodious.

Excerpt of Interview

Q.: Tell us about place where you come from.

I come from Ithaca town from New York. It’s a small town in upstate New York. It has population of around 25000. There is a huge lake there. It’s very hilly area, say more of a valley.

Q.: What was your first impression when you landed in INDIA?

When I landed in INDIA, it was pretty humid. Everybody at the airport was saying to each other “Chalo…. Chalo.. Jaldi…. Jaldi..” I didn’t know what that meant. I was very scared and nervous. People were speaking different languages. There were almost thousands streets and everybody was going everywhere.

Q.: How about experiences of traffic on Indian roads?

I almost got hit by a rickshaw today! It’s very fast. Everybody does whatever they want to. Traffic system is very democratic. I am scared to walk on such roads sometimes. It takes me 10 minutes to cross a road.

Q.: Why you chose India for your exchange program?

I chose India because it’s a country of lots of morals, customs, cultures, languages and everything. In United States, you pass through each state and you hear the same language English, English and English. But in India, it’s different. And also because it is the home of Mahatma Gandhi. I always loved him.

When I was in sixth standard, I heard about his salt march and I was like “Oh! My god, this guy is really cool!” I mean, then I was little and I didn’t know much about him. I didn’t even know that he wasn’t still alive. Then I watched the movie “Gandhi” and I found that he got shot. I really wanted to meet him. It was really depressing. I wanted to know that how one man could bring together entire nation. I think that’s what amazes me most.

Q.: Tell us about the host families you have lived with. How have been experiences with them?

My first host family was very welcoming. My host brother went to United States after couple of weeks of my arriving in INDIA. He is in Chicago right now. My first host family helped me a lot in transition. In exchange program, your first host family is most essential to get you into the culture. And I believe that without their support I wouldn’t be how I am today in INDIA.

My second and third host families too were really nice. My second host father was the past district governor of Rotary district 3060. By profession he was a dentist.

My third host family was a joint family. I had a little brother there who was shy of me, but eventually he would come to me calling “Didi.. didi” So overall, experiences have been really good.

Then I came to Rajkot for my Tabla lessons.

Q.: How about Gujarati food?

I love all Gujarati food. Bataka Pauva is one of my favorites along with Pau Bhaji. Infact, I am not very picky about anything.

I basically come from the Thai background. But I am the first generation in America. Hence, it wasn’t something new for me to eat with my hands. I felt like my Grandma’s house!

I also tried making Chapati once. It turned out burned. And I had to eat it!

Q.: What activities have you been doing here in INDIA?

Besides Tabla playing, I attend my school in Valsad city. There I help local students with English accent. I also teach Karate with the Karate teacher. I also have done such sort of community services. It’s like as a Rotary exchange student, you give back to community as well.

Victoria Sisouphone playing Tabla

Q.: So you know Karate too?

Oh! Yes. Is it intimidating?! I am black belt holder.

Q.: Apart from your host families, what’s your take on general people?

Very warm, very friendly and hospitable. You ask them about directions and they will help you. You visit someone’s house, they will ask for water. I don’t see this back in states. Here, they ask about how is my school going on, how is family doing etc. It’s really nice like people do really care genuinely.

Q.: Tell us about your future career plans?

Well, I am not really sure completely yet but I want to go into English literature and Philosophy. Also possibly minor in music. Then later on come back to Indian and pursue Classical Indian Music.

Note: After the conversation, Victoria plays Tabla and also sings a Hindi song. She has got a nice voice. You can’t afford to skip the singing part.


Devang Vibhakar is the Founder and Editor of www.SpeakBindas.com. He has interviewed more than 350 people. His effort was recognized by Limca Book of Records, twice. He has been to Scotland as well as Germany as part of vocational & cultural exchange programs and has compiled five books so far. He's passionate about bringing forth interesting stories & interviews of entrepreneurs to avid readers of SpeakBindas. He can be reached here.

3 thoughts on “Interview of Victoria SISOUPHONE, an Youth Exchange student from USA

  1. Previous comments:

    Neal April 22, 2010 at 10:35 am

    Once again “the cool guy” brought somebody to india… He impressed everybody in
    unimpressive looks, but impressive job.


    Devang Vibhakar Reply:
    April 22nd, 2010 at 10:56 am

    True. I need a better lookout. But most of the interviews require me travel in the hot summer on my bike and I guess that ruins the look! You know, there is no special studio for interview nor the make-up artist assisting me 🙂
    But as long as my work is cherished, I feel, my look will be kindly overlooked by SpeakBindas viewers/readers such as you, Neal.

    Thanks for your appreciation as it means a lot to me and my work.

    Btw, did you watch the part where Victoria sings a Hindi song? It’s really cool…

    Bharat Dudakia April 22, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    Dear Devang,
    You done good job.
    For Mahatma Gandiji, he was miracle man in the world, his thoughts inspire us and all over world to do something, and I also see that young generation give more respect to Mahatmaji.
    Also congratulation Rotary Club.
    Bharat dudakia.
    National trainer.

    Nikhil Vibhakar April 23, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Good Work! Impressive again! Keep on going! My Best Wishes to the team!


    Devang Vibhakar Reply:
    April 23rd, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Thank you Nikhilbhai for all the hospitality rendered by you and your family to arrange this interview.

    Such appreciation motivates us to keep going further, thank you indeed.

  2. lakshman says:

    hello sir this is lakshman thanking you for posting the youth exchange information, could you please send the links of students interviews and experiences who arrived for youth exchange program in India and world wide..

  3. Pierre Palacios says:

    She is also a thief ! She borrowed me 1500€ and disappeared !

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