My Failed College Indian Cultural Connection

The mismatch between my name and ethnicity

A.J. Bryant
3 min readJun 13, 2024
Photo by Chanhee Lee on Unsplash

My roommate answered my dorm phone freshman year. As he passed the phone to me, he whispered, ‘It’s a girl for you A.J, but said she’s looking for Adam.’

I grabbed the phone, and in my gravelly baritone voice said ‘This is Adam.’

Priya* said she was calling from the Indian Student Association (ISA).

I listened intently, excited. She proceeded, ‘I’m calling because you wrote your contact details down on our information sheet at the Student fair a few days ago.’

‘Yep, I’m interested in hearing more about the ISA.’

Her tone changed. I could sense hesitation.

‘I wanted to let you know, that the ISA is composed primarily of Indians.


‘I am Indian’, I retorted.

‘Oh, I thought you weren’t because your name was Adam.’ Embarrassed, and before I could respond, she hung up the phone.

I never attempted making contact with the ISA again.

My name and my appearance don’t match

This small interaction sums up a struggle I’ve had my whole life. When people see my name written…



A.J. Bryant

Adopted from Kerala. I write about adoption, my intercultural marriage, contemporary India and more. Prawns are my love language.