Making the world his concern

As a student at Yale, Rohan Krishnan set out to assist young immigrants adjusting to their new home — and discovered broader horizons of his own.
Rohan Krishnan

Rohan Krishnan (Photo by Daniel Havlat)

Supporting refugee students as they navigate their new lives in New Haven is just one of many ways Rohan Krishnan made global connections during his time at Yale.

He came to campus committed to helping young migrants succeed academically — a cause he became passionate about while performing community service as a high school student in Worcester, Massachusetts. Beyond that, he was simply eager to experience as many new people, subjects, and activities as time would allow, thinking “the sky’s the limit.”

Still, he is amazed by the multitude of Yale’s offerings.

Never would I have imagined that I would meet world leaders, take courses with several former U.S. ambassadors, or tackle a real-world foreign policy issue,” said Krishnan, who majored in global affairs and resides in Morse College.

In his first year, he became a member of the Migration Alliance at Yale (MAY), which supports the wellbeing of refugees, documented and undocumented immigrants, and asylum seekers, often partnering with New Haven’s nonprofit agency Integrated Refugee and Immigration Services. As the group’s college career readiness director, Krishnan helped refugee high school students with SAT prep, English-language skills, college essay writing, and more.

To expose the students to college life, Krishnan arranged a workshop for them with Yale admissions officers, took them to athletic games, and introduced them to campus venues such as the Davenport College pottery studio.

Aside from dealing with language barriers, many of the kids experienced psychological trauma in their home countries, and some were bullied here by classmates for being different, which is heartbreaking,” said Krishnan. “Being able to help them through these difficulties, witnessing their resilience, and seeing them succeed is very rewarding.”

Many of the students Krishnan tutored came from countries in the Middle East, including Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq. His curiosity about their experiences and cultures led to a special interest in studying the region, inspiring him to learn Arabic at Yale.

Rohan Krishnan with friends in Sarajevo
Rohan Krishnan, center, poses with friends in Sarajevo.

His senior capstone project, however, took Krishnan to another part of the world. With his fellow seniors and their course instructor, David Robinson, who formally served as a senior foreign service officer in Bosnia, Krishnan traveled to Bosnia to examine how the multi-ethnic Brčko District, now under international supervision, can best realize self-government, as negotiated in the 1995 peace agreement. Rising tensions between ethnic groups makes the district’s future a high-stakes situation, Krishnan noted.

I love that the capstone allowed us to do something that has a real, substantive impact and draws on everything we’ve learned over four years,” Krishnan said.

In his junior year, Krishnan created a podcast, “Voices of the World,” which examines human rights and freedom of speech violations in other nations through conversations with international peers and Yale faculty members. As Krishnan explained in the first episode, “Oppression and injustice live in darkness and can only be defeated in the light.”

Krishnan at a Yale Taekwondo practice
Krishnan takes a break from studies and service work for some taekwondo.

Krishnan also participated in the Yale chapter of the Alexander Hamilton Society, which engages students in foreign policy issues; served as a leader for FOCUS on New Haven, a Dwight Hall community service program; and took part in Yale Taekwondo. He served as a research assistant for three Yale faculty members, and was an admissions interviewer in his senior year.

Krishnan will work in Washington, D.C. after graduation, but plans a future career as an immigration lawyer or in another position that allows him to aid refugees.

I think we have a responsibility to help refugees, in part because our nation’s foreign policy sometimes contributed to the instability in the countries from which they came,” said Krishnan. “I have learned so much from them and their resilience.”

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