Alumni Focus: Saroj Kumar Behera
Saroj Kumar Behera graduated from Texas Tech in August, 2014, with an M.S. in Computer Science. He received his B. Tech in Computer Science and Engineering from Biju Patnaik University of Technology in Odisha, India, (his home state) in 2011. We were very fortunate to have him work as an IT student research assistant and lead website developer in the Office of International Affairs from December, 2012, until his graduation. He is now living in Arlington, Virginia, and working at SAIC as a Principal Software Engineer.
Q: Tell us a bit about your hometown and upbringing.
I was born in the small city of Balasore, but my middle-class Indian family soon moved to Bhadrak. I landed in Bhubaneswar for my Bachelor's. All three cities are in the state of Odisha in the eastern part of the subcontinent.
I grew up in a close-knit family. My parents always emphasized the importance of studying hard and doing one's best. I was very close to my only sibling, an older brother, and I am delighted that my family has now expanded to include a sister-in-law and a nephew.
Q: If you could share anything about your Indian heritage with your friends and colleagues at Texas Tech, what would it be?
India is such a large and diverse country, and there are so many different cultures that it will look absolutely different, depending on the perspective of the individual. Even within the same state (India is composed of seven territories and 29 states), things can and do vary quite a lot. But one common factor in all is the relationship between people. I can honestly say that there is always a respect and love between parents and children, teachers and students—relationships of respect that I believe make Indian culture different from others. We consider our parents as almost another form of God, a profound level of respect that extends to our teachers as well.
When I talk about India, how can I forget Indian food? It's spicy, I know. But yummy. Spice levels vary from place to place, and the types of food and cooking styles are numerous. I am from a coastal region, so I enjoyed fish curries—especially those that my mom makes.
Q: Did you always think that you would continue your education in the United States?
Not really, it was my elder brother, Manoj, who inspired me to think beyond what I thought possible. Of course, my parents have always played a vital role in my life, but I would hail my brother for most of the successes in my life. When my outlook was right and I was sufficiently mature, the United States offered the perfect platform in which to continue my education and begin my career. More than anywhere else, the United States welcomes internationals like me and makes us feel comfortable. Research, scholarship, educational infrastructure, diversity, the U.S. has it all. What more I could ask for?
Q:Why did you choose Texas Tech and what are some of your fondest memories of your time here?
The internet was my only source of information for my first look at Texas Tech. What I found was a nice and big campus, good infrastructure, scholarships, low living expenses, enough places for fun (but not so many that a student might be tempted to forget his studies). So Texas Tech and Lubbock made a good choice for me. Then feedback from seniors reinforced my decision. I would say it is a perfect place for study.
There are so many great memories from Texas Tech, and I could never ask for a better home away from my country. From the moment I first landed in dry Lubbock to the day I left, with wet eyes, I have enjoyed and cherished each and every moment. Those early morning classes in windy winter, cancellation of exams due to blizzards, teaching undergrad students some good calculus, project meetings and late night studies in the library, late night cooking, food and long drives with friends, crazy football games (I liked the crowd and the band a lot), being a part of the India Student Association, my sweet workplace at the International Cultural Center, my thesis defense and finally graduation day, all are here in my heart. I could go on writing for many more pages!
Q: Is there anything that you would like to add about TTU or the years that you spent in Texas?
I proudly say now that I am a Texan. I don't know why exactly, but I feel really proud to have lived in Texas! And my university will be always close to my heart. I will never miss a chance to go back to TTU and spend some quality time on that beautiful campus, enjoying its windy and sunny weather.
Final words: Guns Up!
Saroj Kumar Behera