Episode 42: Dr. Neeta Ramkumar - "The Belonging Struggle"
In order to explain how this episode came to be, I have to talk about mental health. Unsurprisingly, mental wellness has become such an important discussion. You could probably chalk that up to more awareness, as well as people being more forthcoming about their struggles that have made it less of a taboo topic.
And in expat spaces, it’s the same. With awesome resources such as the International Therapist Directory, globally mobile individuals and families can find more professionals to discuss about the ups and downs of life abroad.
But I’ve been hanging out in these globally mobile streets for a long time and one challenge has always been to find Black and Brown mental health professionals who also have lived the international lifestyle. And so I was on the hunt for resources for The Black Expat community, when I honestly stumbled upon my next guest.
Enter Dr. Neeta Ramkumar.
To be honest, I was geeked out when I found her. She’s a former Third Culture Kid, current expat with Ph.D training in Counseling Psychology. And she’s currently living in Cameroon. So with all of that you know she’s got a crazy good story.
Neeta comes from an Indian-Guyanese background, with a family whose roots in Guyana go back five generations, before her parents separately immigrated to the United States. That by itself is a story in identity.But then you have to add her experiences living in Singapore and Malaysia as a third culture kid, before returning to the U.S. for a long-term move to Colorado and Texas and then eventual adult moves that include France, Fiji and now Cameroon, and you start to scratch beyond the surface.
Given her own background, Neeta often applies a cultural competency framework to connect with her clients. We spend a significant time discussing what it means to belong — both when you do and don’t look like the local communities you’re moving in and out of. We explore how living in Fiji drew her closer to being part of the Indian Diaspora. We also examine the microaggressions and the privilege that comes with being a corporate expat of color and the identity questions that require some wrestling.
Her life story is somehow unique and oddly familiar in some ways.
- Reflections on her childhood in Singapore and Malaysia
- The ups and down of re-entry U.S. culture as a teenager
- How living in Fiji helped her understand her own Indian Diasporic identity
- The value for expats of color to explore their own identities
To hear the full episode, click below or listen wherever you get your podcasts.