“Sometimes 5 seconds of courage is all it takes. If you do that often, you take yourself out of your comfort zone.”
“Sid! Wake-up! Do you want to go to America?” The voice was his mother’s and the question woke Siddharth (Sid) Nigam, currently a sophomore at UNH, out of a deep, dreamy sleep early (“10 am, which is early for me”) one Saturday morning a few years back in Mumbai, India. “What?” Sid responded. Sid’s mother began to tell him about a really cool exchange program that was being offered to certain students. Mrs. Nigam had found out about the opportunity moments earlier from her eldest son who was receiving advice from a counselor on study abroad options. Sid would need to take a test to prove his English and other basic skills. The only catch, this day was the last day the test would be administered. “My mom woke me up instantly and brought me to the place” where the test was being held. And the rest is like a story you would see in the movies, “I got the world’s highest score and got a really good scholarship.”
Not Sid, nor his parents, could have anticipated what would happen next. Three months after getting out of bed to take a test, Sid was on an airplane to the other side of the world, where no one in his family had ever been, to live with a family and go to school with people he had never met. The “highest test score in the world” landed him a scholarship to the east coast, a placement within the White Mountains Regional High School in Whitefield NH and a home in the hearts of a new “American” family in Lancaster NH, a town of just over 3,500 near the North White Mountains. For Sid, this brought the term “getting out of your comfort zone,” to new levels. Sid traveled from a city of over 20 million in Mumbai, to the town of Lancaster, whose entire population is equal to the amount of commuters you could find on the Mumbai commuter rail at any given time of day. Not to mention “from a winter temperature of 70 degrees to a summer temperature of 65 degrees. It was really different.”
Sid spent a successful year in high school and took a trip visiting colleges with his “American Dad.” They eventually made their way to the Seacoast area and Sid “fell in love with UNH.” He did his senior year online at the Laurel Springs School, while in India, and applied to some universities. UNH gave him a good scholarship, but regardless his heart was already set on UNH and he knew he would definitely be going here. “It was the best decision of my life.”
Since coming to UNH, Sid has lived out his childhood dream of becoming an engineer. “Engineering drives me.” He speaks several languages and loves to travel, which inspired a second major in International Affairs and a great connection to Professor Adam Boucher sparked a minor in Applied Math. Sid has managed dean’s list for all semesters at UNH, has helped with research on the High Speed Water Tunnel at the Chase Ocean Engineering Lab and is currently an intern at HydroComp.
Sid is involved with several programs on campus, most recently as a participant of Leadership Camp. He is also a presenter for Cultural Connections, co-president of the Indian Subcontinental Students’ Association, a member of Best Buddies and the UNH Anti-racism team. In addition, he is a student representative on the UNH President’s Commission on the Status of People of Color, is involved with the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs and a brother of MOSDEF (Men of Strength, Diversity, Education and Family). In his free time Sid is a Resident Assistant in Handler Hall, is involved with Students without Borders, is a member of the Engineering Student Advisory Board and tutor for the Mechanical Engineering Department.
Sid is motivated by his passions to be around people and to absorb knowledge like a sponge. Sid “wants to stay hungry” and wants to “always having a fire inside that fuels me. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I know I don’t want to lose that fire.” His advice to other students is to “stay passionate about learning, no matter what you are learning, because there is so much to learn.”
Sid attributes his passion for life and learning to his family, especially his mother, whom he said he values more than anything. Sid knows he gets his core strengths and values from his family. It sounds cliché to say that Sid is where he is in life – at UNH, in NH, in the United States studying Honors Mechanical Engineering and International Affairs with a minor in Applied Math in addition to all his involvement – because of his mother, but Sid is LITERALLY here due to his mother’s devotion and foresight to get a sleepy 10th grader out of bed early one morning to begin, what has become, the adventure of a lifetime.
2013 - 2014 CYOS Honorees: seated Zak Ahmad-Kahloon, Emily Dickman, Nyomi Guzman, Annie Crossman, standing Lauren McCandless, Kathryn Sattora, Timothy Marquis, Sid Nigam, Evan Beals, Peter Wilkinson