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From the Beaches of St. Thomas to the Snow of Syracuse

Raised in a tropical tourist mecca, Simran Mirchandani ventured out and found a welcoming college environment that felt surprisingly similar to her hometown.

Simran Mirchandani portrait. Clicking image takes you to story
Mirchandani helped start the Spanish club on campus her first year with other members of the Renée Crown University Honors Program.

Until the summer before her senior year of high school, Simran Mirchandani ’21 had never set foot on a college campus. To help her choose a college, her family left their home in the U.S. Virgin Islands and embarked on a cross-country road trip for a series of campus tours. “We were going from campus to campus, and Syracuse was one of our last stops,” she says. “At that point we were really exhausted. We'd heard the same spiel over and over about everything you can do, and it all kind of blended together.”

But what she found at Syracuse University wasn’t simply another boilerplate admissions pitch. Just before Mirchandani’s scheduled campus tour, an admissions counselor pulled her aside to ask what she was looking for in the college experience and to explore whether Syracuse was a good fit. “I already knew coming in that I wanted to spend a semester overseas,” she says, so the counselor provided information about Syracuse Abroad . Mirchandani appreciated the active interest in her. “They knew I had come from really far away, and they wanted to get to know what my specific goals were and what majors I was interested in,” she says. “I think that was what really set Syracuse apart.”

Campus Community Offers Home Away From Home

Once Mirchandani made the decision to be Orange, she was excited because Syracuse seemed so completely different from where she grew up. “I knew I'd be meeting all sorts of people who have had different experiences from me—that was very apparent to me on my first campus visit,” she says.

Simran Mirchandani smiles with the ocean as a backdrop
Since sophomore year, Mirchandani has worked in a plant biology lab, where she is investigating the molecular mechanism by which plants are able to upregulate and downregulate plant immunity and systemic acquired resistance.

Growing up in St. Thomas, Mirchandani’s day-to-day activities were determined by how many ships were docked in town. Only on days with fewer ships could she dependably go about her usual business; otherwise, the traffic made driving impossible.

The small island community was very close, Mirchandani says. “It’s such a welcoming place because we’re so used to having so many tourists.” St. Thomas’ transient community helped Mirchandani develop an appreciation for other cultures. Her parents worked as jewelers, so she grew accustomed to watching them engage with tourists from all over the world.

While campus life was a new experience, there were some fundamental similarities to her hometown. The multicultural aspect of life in St. Thomas provided a foundation that has allowed Mirchandani to thrive, even in snowy Syracuse. The University’s tradition of international scholarship and engagement—and its network of alumni from over 170 countries—appealed to Mirchandani. “My childhood prepared me for being part of a community like Syracuse, and I found my own smaller community within Syracuse University,” she says.

A World of Opportunity

Mirchandani, a triple major in biochemistry , economics and Spanish , has pursued her interests from the moment she arrived on campus. “Syracuse has a lot to offer, and it’s up to the students to take advantage of those opportunities,” she says. She knew right away she was interested in research, mentorship and study abroad. Although initially hesitant, Mirchandani soon began reaching out with questions about how to get involved in research and the many overseas study options. “People were extremely helpful and provided the information I needed,” she says. She found the campus community, including professors and peers, willing to help her reach her goals.

In 2018, Mirchandani studied in Madrid after being awarded the competitive Coronat Scholarship , which is helping finance four years of tuition and supported her study abroad experience. She is also a member of the Renée Crown University Honors Program . “I started doing research in a biology department lab right at the beginning of my sophomore year,” she says. Mirchandani would like to take any insights from her research on plant processes and use them as the basis of her honors capstone project, helping her realize a short-term goal of being published before graduation.

Mirchandani was recently selected as a 2020-21 Remembrance Scholar , joining a global network of Syracuse University students who embody the spirit of those lost in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. This award, which is based on scholarship, leadership and service to the community, will allow her to work with some of her closest friends to honor the 35 students who lost their lives. She is feels privileged to have the opportunity and is looking forward to her senior year.

Experiencing a New Climate and Pursuing Passions

While Mirchandani has thrived over the past three years and loves Central New York, snow and all, her parents are still wary of the weather during the winter months. “They worry a lot. My mom will text me every morning and tell me what the temperature is going to be,” she says. Reflecting on her decision to choose Syracuse University three years ago, Mirchandani says the snow was ultimately a selling point. “I was really excited because I had never experienced snow,” she says. “The campus is extremely welcoming and Syracuse has enabled me to pursue my goals of studying abroad, performing research and receiving mentorship.”

Brandon Dyer

This story was published on .

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