Vicky’s Immigration Story – Slough, the United Kingdom to Lexington, Kentucky


Vicky was born in Slough, a town she describes as a “busy dirty place” (right next to the “very posh” Windsor) and says British people make a lot of jokes about Slough. Vicky’s sister used to go for riding lessons and Vicky tagged along. For the first couple of years, she was terrified by the thought of riding. Once she got over the fear, she fell in love.

“When you are little, they are huge. You’re not strong enough to hold them, so you fall off. You have to be quite tough to get going. When I was 11, I got my first pony. He was like a dream pony. I used to go to shows, do jumping, and win rosettes. My biggest dream was having a room full of rosettes.” (audio below)

Vicky’s grandfather was really into horse racing – specifically gambling at horse races. He would take Vicky to the tracks, and she was awe-struck by these “big beautiful animals and their power and strength.” When Vicky was 19, she got her first chance to ride an actual racehorse.

It is like driving a mini and then suddenly going and driving a Rolls Royce. You just can’t believe it. Wow, this is amazing! When you are going flat out on them, it’s the best feeling in the world.” (audio below)


Vicky’s husband Pat was born in New York City to a third-generation Irish bricklaying father and a mother from the United Kingdom who taught Irish step dancing. Pat’s father passed away when he was five, and his mother wanted to go back to the UK to be with her family. Despite leaving the US at five, Pat always held on to his American identity. He figures it was his way of holding on to his father. (audio below)

He spent a couple of years in London with his grandparents, and then his mom married another Irishman. They moved out to the quiet suburbs, near Epsom, home of the famous Epsom Derby. When Pat’s parents took him for pony riding lessons, he was instantly hooked. Pat ended up getting his own pony, doing show jumping, and then getting into horse racing. He tried to become a jockey [see the photo below] but discovered that it isn’t the best choice for an asthmatic.

Pat loves the connection he feels to the horse when riding and also the adrenalin rush. He finds the features of horses comforting. Even though they are big and robust, they aren’t aggressive. 

 “It is a timeless thing. Horses really were the things that first helped people be more than they could be on their own.” 

Pat also feels like horses bring him closer to nature. 

 “If you are out riding on a trail, you have a different perspective than on foot. You can see more, and wild animals don’t scatter. It’s a nice experience. Except when you are on a thoroughbred, then it is a frightening experience. Some people get a bit addicted to it. You feel alive.”  (audio below)

Equine Studies

Pat and Vicky both enrolled in Equine Studies – the first one of its kind in Europe – at Warwickshire College. They studied anatomy, physiology, nutrition, biomechanics, and everything else required to become a “competent horse person.” 

It was at the “Horse Racing Club” Pat organized where they first saw each other. Vicky remembers Pat getting up to talk, and saying to her friend, “oh, look at him, isn’t he awful!” Three months later, they got chatting at a college bar and began dating. 

 “It was easy being around each other from the start.” 

Vicky jokes that they have been together so long; she could have murdered Pat and gotten out of jail by now! (audio below)

When they finished their finals at college in 1994, they decided to take a summer holiday to Kentucky. They had a great time, and the night before they were going to return to the UK, Pat turned to Vicky and said, “this is where we want to be.” Vicky didn’t think so. 

 “I literally begged Pat to come back to England with me.” 

Above: Jack, first day at school, age five


Vicky and Pat married in 1996, and by that point, had their own stable yard with horses where Pat trained, and Vicky helped him. That same year they had their son Jack [see the above photo].

 “The first thing he ever saw when he went out of the house after coming from the hospital was a horse’s head over the door. He’s been good with animals his whole life.” 

When Jack was a boy, and people would ask what he wanted to be, the answer was always a “jockey,” and that dream never died. Pat and Vicky signed Jack up for pony racing.

 “I didn’t think he would have the strength to get the pony to the start, let alone ride in the race. But he did and fell off at the start. The race was off, and he finished third. I thought, ‘Oh, hell! He’s going to be a jockey!‘” 

They tried to steer him away from working with horses, but Jack just got better and better, and admittedly, Pat and Vicky have put some of their own dreams into Jack. 

United States

Vicky tried to convince Pat and Jack they had everything they needed in England. Jack went to Kentucky for a week exchange as part of the British Racing School, and after returning, every day, he asked when he could go to the US again to race. 

They waited a year so Jack could finish school. Vicky and Jack applied for visas through Pat, to help make their son’s dreams come true, It took 18 months, and when the green cards were approved, they only had six weeks to pack up 25 years of their lives together and leave before they expired. Vicky had expected they could leave England whenever they wanted, but that wasn’t the case. 

When they landed in New York in 2014, it was Pat’s first time back to his place of birth since he was a kid. 

“The things you don’t do are the biggest regrets in your life, and I had it in me to come and spend time in America where I was born, and I’ve done it.” 


When they arrived in Kentucky, Vicky couldn’t stop crying and continued to have “tears for the first month”. She felt useless and lost. They needed to find a place to live, and she hated driving the big truck they got. The second time Jack raced in Kentucky, the horse broke its leg, and Jack went down with it. It gave them a real scare, and Vicky started to really question why they had moved to the US. 

Vicky had to stop watching Jack race – it is easier on her nerves. 

“The way I deal with it is I don’t watch him, yet when he does win, and you are there, it is the best thing ever. When he does fall, your whole world stops. We’ve been lucky so far. I always say to him the day you don’t want to do it, you stop. It’s been a roller coaster.”

Above: Pat watching Jack’s race from his living room (audio below)

Jack says he hardly remembers England now, but Pat is much more reflective. He realizes had they come to the US for a year, then headed back to the UK, it would have been enough for him, but he knows how much Jack loves living in the US.

“I know a lot of people emigrate out of harsh economic necessity, but even when you have a choice, it’s a tradeoff you gain something and lose something.”


Ultimately Pat and Vicky like where they live in Kentucky – rolling hills and giant trees. One thing that stuck out to them when they first arrived is how many people wear jeans and t-shirts. It’s a lot different than the New York Pat remembers of “slacks and collared shirts”. They like how laid back everyone is in Kentucky.

 “I thought the Irish were laid back, but the Kentuckians make us look like strung-out messes – and in the summer, they’re even more laid back!”

Father & Son

When they arrived in the US, Jack, age 17, didn’t have a driver’s license. To race, he needed to travel to nearby states and the five different Kentucky tracks. That first year, Pat, as Jack’s “chauffeur”, drove 80,000 miles. They would leave at four in the morning and arrive back home at midnight. That year of being together non-stop involved a lot of tears and laughter, as they tried to get Jack established in the racing scene. Pat was doing something with Jack that he never got to do with his father. 

“It was the first time in my life that I ever really thought about my father. He was gone, and I was in another country. When I came back here, it felt quite strange. In the end, I saw a counselor and spoke about it. It was quite emotional. I never really grieved for him.” (audio below)

After a year and a half, Jack got his license and could drive himself. Pat cherishes that extraordinary experience of spending so much time on the road with his son. Pat was a racehorse trainer for nearly two decades. It was so special that Pat decided to take time off to write about the experience. In 2018, he published Around Kentucky With the Bug.

WinStar Farms

When they arrived in Kentucky, Vicky didn’t plan on working with horses. She had so many incredible years in England with horses and figured nothing would be the same in the US. 

“I said, ‘I’m never going to ride a horse again. I was done with that.’ And then you find you miss them, they are in your blood, and you just can’t get away.”

She started her job at WinStar Farm in 2016, working as the Barn Foreman, who oversees the smooth running of the barn and assists the trainer.  

“Just being around horses every day is good for your soul. They don’t ask too much of you. I mean, they drive you crazy: they bite and kick, and push you around and don’t do what you want them to do, but they are so beautiful. I prefer being around them to people, I guess. They don’t judge you, and they forgive you. I guess I’m a half-horse!” (audio below)

Vicky loves the people she works with and finds that, in general, people in the US are more open and easy to connect with. Christie, from New Jersey, is one of Vicky’s coworkers [see the above photos].

“It is nice being around young people. I think it is a bit of the mother thing. We don’t have that much in common, and Christie’s so much younger than me, but when you work with horses, you have them in common.” (audio below)


Vicky and Pat miss their family in the UK, including two horses they still own back in England, that they consider part of their family. Vicky went back to the UK recently and was surprised to find herself missing Kentucky. 

“It was weird; I wanted to come back here to Kentucky. This is home now. I prefer the weather here. It makes you feel great to be alive. You don’t get that in England. Everyone is miserable.”

Audio: Vicky talking to the horses


In the future, Pat and Vicky hope Jack continues to pursue his dreams.

Pat says he has passed the stage in his life of grand ambitions and feels grateful for what he has. He jokes that he hopes his book “sells better than Harry Potter”!

Vicky hopes that Jack will one day have a family, and she will have grandchildren, but she emphasizes that it is all up to him. She also would love to open a cat sanctuary one day, with a few horses there as well.

*Update: Since the interview, the two horses (who are like family) in England, have now immigrated to Kentucky too. At the beginning of 2020, their son Jack bad accident breaking a collar bone and smashing his whole face. He fought hard to return to racing and is now competing again. Vicky and Pat, are happy (for their nerves’ sake) to know that Jack only plans on competing for a couple more years tops.


To receive updates on the book release and exhibition of “Finding American: Stories of Immigration from all 50 States” please subscribe here. This project is a labor of love and passion. If you would like to support its continuation, it would be greatly appreciated!

© Photos and text by Colin Boyd Shafer | Edited by Kate Kamo McHugh. Quotes are edited for clarity and brevity.

Mike’s Immigration Story – London, the United Kingdom to Norman, Oklahoma


Mike’s childhood in London wasn’t easy. He grew up in the northwest area of the city in a low-income family that lacked stability.

Above: Mike being held by his mother. Smoking, drinking and doing drugs were commonplace in his house.

Mike still thinks London is the most magnificent city in the world. Smells are a big trigger for childhood memories, like the smell of the tube (underground train) and wet concrete when it rains – earthy yet industrial.

“That, to me, is London – a big concrete and brick city, and it rains all the time.” (audio below)

Mike’s birth was unplanned. As a baby, his parents – who he never really remembers being a ‘couple’ – and his two much older half brothers were at the home. His oldest brother left home at age 16 when Mike was only one year old. “When he had the opportunity to get out, he did,” and in hindsight, Mike respects him for doing so.

Above: Mike with his brother and his brother’s son. “That was my brother being there for me when I needed him to be. The way he has his arm around me brings a tear to my eye. I always knew he would protect me.”


Mike grew up in a musical household – three or four guitars were always laying around. Mike’s grandfather, Alexis Korner, was a celebrated blues musician. He figures it was the musician’s lifestyle that got his parents into drugs.

“You can’t grow up and hang out with the Rolling Stones and not get into heroin.”

“Essentially, both of my parents spent their lives dealing drugs in one form or another. That’s probably how they met, and that’s why they split up. It dominated most of my young life, but I didn’t know it at the time. Looking back as an adult, I am like, ‘Oh, ya that’s why that happened!’”

When asked what his father did for work, Mike replied, “What hasn’t he done? He repaired trucks, managed tours for the band Motorhead, and most recently he drove a cab. His father was never in the best of health. 

When Mike was 12, his mom met her boyfriend John. Mike remembers John as “the only person who could ever handle her” and he really looked up to him.

“It was my birthday. I wanted to be Bob Dylan, so he bought me a harmonica and said I could play his guitar anytime I wanted. That’s when I learned that I loved the guy.”

Above: Mike, as a teenager, with two of his best friends.

Mike’s first connections to America were his godmother who lived in Los Angeles, and his best friend in London who was from New York. His first visit to see his godmother was when he was six.

“From the moment I came to the US, I loved it. Getting into my godmother’s late 80s Oldsmobile, hot leather seats, palm trees. I was like, ‘Wow, this is pretty awesome!’ I think I was always meant to come back.”


Mike’s mother died in 2006 when Mike was only 18 – the toughest thing he has ever gone through.

Mike needed to get out of the house after his mother’s death, but realistically he didn’t have anywhere to go. He had always lacked confidence and motivation and he didn’t expect to get into college. Mike thought it was a mistake when a journalism program in Falmouth, Cornwall, accepted him. After a couple of years of studying rarely, and socializing often, he decided to move back to London, where he got a job as a police community support officer. It was a position designed by the Metropolitan Police in London to bridge the gap between the community and the police.

Love Online

Mike wasn’t loving the job, he was dealing with depression, and looking for some to connect with. He turned to the internet. One night he was scrolling through “cam model” thumbnails and clicked on a redhead he found attractive.

Caelie, who is from Oklahoma, was living in Portland, Oregon when Mike came across her picture. She started working as a camgirl to put herself through massage school. She was “camming” with a lot of people every day, but as Caelie explains, Mike was different from the other guys.

“He didn’t come in and be like ‘show me your boobs.’ He was more like: What kind of music do you like? Do you have a college degree? Who’s your favorite artist? We started talking more and more in this casual way online. He was engaging, interesting, and kind. I felt like I was being seen and heard, and that was a really new experience for me.” (audio below)

Things between them moved fast – within the first few conversations; it was clear something was there. Mike kept coming back and spending more money to chat with her, and she knew that because of the time difference, he wasn’t sleeping. As Mike remembers,

“I was never looking for love, but it found me. I was just looking for someone to listen to me and make me feel special. The more I got to know, the more I liked her, and the fact that it was reciprocated was even more shocking to me. I was just paying to be there!”

Caelie and Mike started writing a lot of letters back and forth. Caelie has always liked to write, feeling like it is a very personal thing to do. 

“That was my way of sharing a part of myself with him and being vulnerable with him. Sometimes the internet feels very impersonal. To have something that someone has touched is special. We had to grasp at straws to create intimacy because of the distance, and writing for me, was a way.”

Mike really wanted to meet Caelie in person. He felt like his job working as a community support officer for the Police in London, was a “dead-end,”  and he was ready for a change.

Above: A selfie they took on Mike’s first visit to Oregon.


When Mike arrived in Portland in 2011, he never had any intention actually to move to the US. They had been talking every day for months, so it was exciting to finally meet Caelie in person. 

That first time when we first got to share the same space. It was incredible. We already knew, but it confirmed it for us. Everything else is there; now we just need to occupy the same physical space. From that moment there was no question. There were lots of questions from people around us, but we never doubted it.”

Caelie remembers waiting for Mike at the airport in Portland and how intense that first meeting was. She remembers their first hug – it was overwhelming.

We got out to my car in the parking garage and just sat there and stared at each other for a little while. That was a really good two weeks. We didn’t leave the house as we were just enjoying each other. We both cried when he had to go.” (audio below)

 Above: Tickets from the top of Space Needle in Seattle, where they made the decision to get married.

Mike and Caelie visited each other in person every three months for a while, then Mike came to the US on a fiancé visa in 2012. They tried to do the application without an immigration lawyer, but they hadn’t provided enough evidence of their relationship. After five months of waiting, they got the rejection. The second time they applied, they sent in “more than enough evidence.” 

“Even with Mike being from a western country, white, speaking English- it was hard and expensive. I really feel for people who have more obstacles. We had all the cards stacked for us, and it was still really difficult.”


Caelie was pregnant within two weeks of Mike’s arrival. Neither of them planned on having kids before, but oddly enough, if they ever had a daughter, they both agreed that they wanted to name her Molly. (audio below)

They had a “shotgun wedding” and got “some looks about it” but they were so in love nothing else mattered. Molly was born in August 2013.

“Molly is smart, sassy, and strong. She is so independent, and it is a huge pain in both of our asses. We wouldn’t want it any other way. She’s a tiny person and reminds me of both my wife and me every day. It’s an honor, and it’s absolutely terrifying, and I don’t want to mess it up. (audio below)

Despite coming from different backgrounds, Mike says he and Caelie want the same thing for their daughter – to provide her with unconditional love. 

“We want her to have that safety and security of knowing no matter what happens and who you are or the decisions you make, you will be loved. We are your people until the moment that we don’t exist. That was something my mom actually taught me. Her love was never conditional, despite the plethora of crap that was my childhood – I never questioned her love. She made sure I had a roof over my head, food in my belly, clothes, and that I went to school. That’s always been the baseline of what a parent owes a child.” (audio below)

Mike also knows many of the things he experienced growing up – he never wants Molly to encounter. He doesn’t want her to be around drugs or irresponsible adults.

There is nothing that quite compares to being a kid and realizing that the person you are relying on is not reliable. It shakes things. Despite knowing that my mom loved me there were times when she was screwed up – whether it was drinking, drugs, or bad relationships. Realizing that I didn’t necessarily come first at those times was kind of scary, and I don’t want that for my kid.” 


When Mike arrived in 2012, they lived at Caelie’s parents’ house. Mike needed to find work to support his pregnant wife. His first job in Oklahoma was as a laborer, laying mortar for a masonry company. After that, he got into selling insurance over the phone. He figures his British accent got him that job. After the call center, he became an associate agent for All-State Insurance. Still, he wanted to try something else.

In 2018, Mike started working as the volunteer coordinator at the Cleveland County ReStore for Habitat for Humanity. This ReStore focuses on taking care of the local community and getting people out of poverty. Volunteers do most of the labor at the store. 

Mike describes Oklahoma as “quintessential midwest,” barely any hills, big plains, buffalo, and waving wheat. They have scorching summers and short cold winters, and dealing with tornadoes is normal. Politically it is a “a very red state, the buckle of the bible belt”, but Norman is a university town, so it is a “very blue bubble in a red state”.

It bothers Mike how the community is polarized as a result of the region’s history.

 “If you are rich and your family’s rich, then you live on that side of town; if not, you are over there.”

In East Norman, where they live, it is more diverse. Mike wants Molly to grow up, “knowing that there are people different than her, and that’s a good thing.”

For a while, Mike and Caelie were thinking about moving. They decided to stay.

We want to make this place better and take care of what we do have here – a budding and caring community.”

Above: Mike wearing a scarf Caelie knitted and mailed to Mike after they started talking online

Modern Love

Caelie feels like she and Mike have a truly modern love story. Their courting seems unique, but she thinks it may become less unusual as time goes on. Caelie says ‘cam work’ is amazing because it is something that is usually done willingly as a choice. It allowed her to be financially independent and to find love across an ocean.

“I chose to be in it, and I enjoyed the work while I was in it. When I didn’t enjoy it I stopped. It taught me a lot about my fellow humans and what’s normal. It set me up to be open to something.” (audio below)

It is still something Caelie believes should be done carefully- especially the idea of meeting in person with someone you met online.

“Everybody should be cautious online, but you can’t live in complete fear. You have to put yourself out there in order to find love and a life that you want.”


Mike wants to grow old with Caelie in Norman, Oklahoma. 

“Caelie is the glue to who I am as a person. I love her with all my heart.”

He hopes in the future he can look back and say that he had a part in making Norman a better place – “a little more loving, a little more caring”.

“Through my work in the community and also through raising a child that is going to live those ideals, teach other people, and maybe have her own children someday. The best I can do is try and raise a kid who is going to make the world a better place. It’s not a big fancy dream – it’s pretty straight forward.” (audio below)

*Update: Since the interview, Mike became a US citizen and returned to working as an associate agent for All-State. He says his experiences in the non-profit sector have helped him be more focused on improving the local community with the work he does with insurance. Mike’s father passed away in February of 2020.


To receive updates on the book release and exhibition of “Finding American: Stories of Immigration from all 50 States” please subscribe here. This project is a labor of love and passion. If you would like to support its continuation, it would be greatly appreciated!

© Photos and text by Colin Boyd Shafer | Edited by Kate Kamo McHugh & Janice May. Quotes edited for clarity and brevity.

Sohini’s Immigration Story – Hounslow, the United Kingdom to Duluth, Georgia

Family History

Sohini’s family’s story of how they came to Britain began a long time ago during her grandfather’s early adulthood. The British had colonized India and were recruiting Indian people for all types of work. Sohini’s grandfather could speak and write English, so they hired him as a clerk and sent him to Kenya to work on the construction of a railroad. All eleven of his children, including Sohini’s mother, were born in Africa with British citizenship.


Sohini’s father was born in India and met her mother through their arranged marriage. Sohini was born in Hounslow, a suburb outside of London. She and her brother grew up surrounded by an extensive support system of 15 cousins. They went to school and temple together and visited each other’s houses all the time. Sohini even thought some of her cousins were her brothers and sisters.

Above: Sohini (wearing purple on the bottom right) in Gujarati attire with her cousin and friends for a folk dance competition in England.

Sohini’s parents worked in London, and the family was “getting by” at best. Her father had a factory job, and her mother worked at the elementary school as the supervisor of all the “dinner ladies” (the women who would make sure the children ate their lunch).

“Everywhere we went we kind of adopted a little British granny. This is Violet holding me [photo below]. My mom worked two jobs, so Violet would help us out. She lived in the same government housing building as us and made the best homemade shoestring french fries.”

South Wales

The family made a move to South Wales when Sohini was six years old to see if they could have greater economic success. Her parents decided to buy a corner shop in a predominantly Welsh area with some Jamaican immigrants, but no Indian people.

“I was kind of uncomfortable when we first moved there because there wasn’t anyone who was Indian – a few kids were Pakistani. I didn’t fit in, I got bullied, and I will never forget this: They gathered around me, and there’s a song called “brown girl in the ring” – it goes something like this [sings the song]” (audio below)

Sohini did make friends at school eventually, and she does have some positive memories from Wales, especially the field trips to see castles and museums. She has always loved history – anything Medieval or Victorian. Throughout their time living in South Wales, her family took every opportunity to go back to London to visit their extended family. 


Sohini loved making art from an early age, but never felt supported with this passion.

“I wasn’t encouraged by parents to pursue anything in art. It had to be stable and where I could make a lot of money. They kept pushing me to be a doctor or a lawyer like most Indian parents.”

While in Wales, Sohini remembers her art teacher encouraging her and telling her she was a talented painter. Even with this encouragement, Sohini hasn’t picked up a paintbrush since then.


Crocheting is a form of art her parents encouraged. Sohini’s grandma crocheted, taught it to her mom, who then taught Sohini while at the corner store. Since she wasn’t allowed to go out like her brothers were, Sohini had to find something to pass the time. The boys had “free reign”, something that Sohini says is common in Indian families.

She especially loves the rhythm of crocheting.

 “Once you read the pattern and get it in your head it’s just second nature. The colors and the satisfaction of making something when you get to the end of it.”

This passion has continued, and crocheting has brought her peace in stressful times.

“If I could sit at home and crochet all day, I would.” (audio below)

Above: Sohini and her classmates in Wales

Overall the experiment of moving to Wales didn’t work out the way her parents had hoped. Sohini’s uncle was living in Atlanta, Georgia, and had submitted an application for Sohini’s parents in 1982. It wasn’t until a decade later that they got a letter from the US consulate in London saying they approved the application.


In 1994, when Sohini was 13, they seized the opportunity to move to the United States. When they first landed in Georgia, they moved into her uncle’s two-bedroom Atlanta apartment – one family in one room, one in another.

“It wasn’t a good time. I was depressed. Here we had nobody. It was a lot more expensive to call the UK from the US in the early 90s, so I wrote a lot of letters to my cousins and friends.”

She remembers how sad her mother [below] was as well. She had never been so far away from her mother and her sisters. 

After nine months, her uncle kicked their family out. Luckily Sohini’s brother, who is good at striking up a conversation with anyone, knew the woman in charge of the apartment complex. She helped the family find an empty apartment in the same building, and slowly they filled that empty apartment with donated furniture. 

Above: “This is our first Thanksgiving in America. We had never celebrated it before. That chicken was bland!”

American Dream

The economic American Dream never materialized for her parents. Her father ran an ice cream shop for a while, and then a dry cleaner.

“My dad’s just not good at running businesses. None of them have worked.”

Sohini’s mom worked at a daycare for a while, then at KFC for more than a decade. 

Above: Sohini at her high school in Atlanta


Sohini says the experience of arriving as an immigrant to Atlanta in 1994 was a “true culture shock”. It wasn’t as diverse as it is today. The people she encountered in this new country were mostly either white or black and a few were from Mexico. Sohini’s appearance and background confused people- an Indian from the U.K. who had big curly hair. They didn’t know how to place her. Sohini was regularly asked, “What are you?” or “Where are you from?” and most people assumed she was “mixed or Hispanic”.

“If I told them I was Indian, I got asked what tribe. They really didn’t know India was part of Asia. I would say I was Asian, and they would say you don’t look Asian. Lots of confusion and having to explain what I was. Add in that I was born in the U.K., and it was even more confusing”. (audio below)

On the rare occasions when she did encounter another person from India, they didn’t connect – they had different diets and a fashion sense. Most of Sohini’s friends ended up being African American or Latino. 

Sohini found it strange that she had to take ESL (English as a Second Language) classes, even though English was her first language. 

“We walked into this ESL class and started speaking to the teachers, and they were wondering why we were there. I was born in England. They just made us read books and do book reports.” (audio below)

From Sohini’s memory, the 1996 Summer Olympics seemed to change the culture of Atlanta. These games exposed people to other religions and cultures, and backgrounds. After the Olympics, Sohini felt a greater sense of belonging.

When Sohini finished high school with a high GPA and had scholarships available to her, she still decided not to go to college. Her dad wouldn’t let her move away to go to school.

“He wouldn’t let me go anywhere, so I was like ‘f-this I am going to stay at home and work.’”


Sohini started working at the same daycare her mother had worked at years earlier.

Above: A surprise birthday party for Sohini at the daycare where she worked

About three years later, the guy she dated at the time said he wouldn’t talk to her if she didn’t apply to college again. He wasn’t joking, and she knew he was right. Sohini thought about how her parents didn’t have more than high school education, and she knew she could succeed at the college level. Sohini started taking classes at the University of Georgia to become a teacher; then, she decided she wanted to work more in curriculum development focused on adult education. 

“I could not find a job related to my career for the longest time. I’ve never found a real opportunity where I can get paid to help adults learn.”

After graduating, Sohini started writing training materials for companies and has been doing that for more than a decade. She still dreams of putting her degree to use, working with non-profit groups, and helping homeless adults learn a skill. 

Above: Sohini’s cousin’s daughter was taking pictures to send to India, to find a husband. She convinced Sohini to come with her and have her picture taken too.

Meeting Michael

To graduate from the U of G, Sohini needed to take an economics class. Michael, a Georgia-native, was regularly sitting next to her. Sohini always wrote down everything the professor said, while Michael, who was confident in the subject, was skipping class and not taking notes when he was there. He eventually asked to look at her notes.

“He was like, ‘these are really detailed notes. Do you need help?’ and I was like, ‘Yes, I’m so glad you asked!’” (audio below)

Michael ended up becoming her tutor, and while she had a boyfriend at the time, they decided to stay in touch. What Michael didn’t know yet was that Sohini’s relationship at the time wasn’t healthy. She had isolated herself from her friends, who were telling her to leave this emotionally abusive partner. One night she called Michael and he listened, supported her and did not judge. They started dating and have been together for more than a decade.


Sohini and Michael wanted to have a child, but their journey wasn’t an easy one. Their daughter Maya was stillborn at five and a half months. It was traumatic.

They were running out of options for how they were going to have a child.

“We got into the point in our fertility journey where the doctor said that’s it. It’s not good for you, mentally or physically.”

They had sold their house and moved back in with her parents.

Two things that helped Sohini through all of the fertility treatments were crocheting and Harry Potter books. 

“I was hooked. Every time a book came out, I got it at midnight and would sit and read it. It helped me during that period. I had distanced myself from everybody. I didn’t know who I was anymore, and I found myself again with Michael’s help, but Harry Potter kept me sane”.


Michael and Sohini started thinking about adopting a child from India; then a friend brought up the idea of surrogacy. That idea stuck, and less than a year later, they were off to India to transfer Sohini’s embryo to a surrogate. The whole thing was a “whirlwind.” On their way to India to pick up their son, they stopped in London, where the family had organized a surprise baby shower.

“I just remember being so anxious. I remember looking at him through the window. This is my child.” (audio below)

“He’s a blessing. He’s a miracle. I was reading Harry Potter, and I was like, ‘oh my God, he’s the boy that lived!’ We couldn’t be happier.” (audio below)

Getting Looks

Atlanta, and Northern Georgia in general, have changed a lot since Sohini moved there. Today, Sohini would describe the area as multicultural and accepting. It still doesn’t feel that way everywhere in Georgia. Sohini remembers the first time she went to visit her cousin, who lives in the southern part of the state. “We would get looks. God forbid we stopped anywhere”!

Sohini also thinks she and Michael – an interracial couple with a mixed child – receive negative looks.

“We were in Athens [Georgia] yesterday at our favorite sushi place. As we were leaving, this woman gave me the dirtiest look and looked down at our son. I just smiled at her.”

Sohini says the Indian community can be just as bad, judging her for marrying a white guy. 

“I look back at them and smile because it’s my life, not theirs.” (audio below)

Full Circle

When Sohini went to India on vacation, she was able to visit her family’s ancestral home. On the front porch, she found this sewing machine [see the above photo]- the one her mother and all of her sisters learned to sew on. Sohini brought it back to Georgia.

Sohini isn’t sewing often, but she continues the family tradition of crocheting with a passion. She recently made a turtle, a mermaid, two Star Wars hats, and a chicken hat that someone ordered to give their granddaughter for Christmas. Sohini also made her son, ‘the miracle boy that lived’, an elephant.


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© Photos and text by Colin Boyd Shafer | Edited by Janice May & Kate Kamo McHugh. Quotes edited for clarity and brevity.