“I was never ashamed of my background at school, but there weren’t many of us and I wouldn’t always be outgoing about being Tamil and from Sri Lanka. I just knew I was different.
“My parents are both immigrants from Sri Lanka, but I was born and brought up in East London. My surname has thirteen letters in it – lots of Sri Lankan people have long names – and teachers have always struggled with it or avoided it full stop. Things like that make you realise you’re different. Even my first name, some people have difficulty with it. But nowadays people want to learn how to pronounce your name properly, even more so at Imperial where there are people from so many cultures. Everyone’s welcoming.
“Secondary school in Essex is where I really grew up. Essex is not as ethnically diverse as East London, which was quite a culture shock for me. It makes you feel like a little bit of an imposter at times, especially when things are so different at home. That’s something a lot of second-generation immigrants feel. It’s a confusing situation, especially as a young teenager, but it really helped me to eventually become comfortable with my identity.”