Friends of the International Center, UCSD Newsletter, June 2015


by Thespine Kavoulakis

About two and a half years ago, my husband flew to San Diego to interview for one of the most exciting job opportunities in the world.

We had only briefly talked about the possibility of leaving our home in Pittsburgh.  I remember very clearly saying “How could you pass up an offer?” and my husband saying “You’d move to California?” and me saying “Yes, absolutely,” yet all the while not knowing what lay ahead after I’d leave the place I had lived my entire life.

A few days after that conversation, the phone call we had been waiting for came, and my husband, Pradeep Khosla, became the Chancellor of UC San Diego.  By default, I became the Associate of the Chancellor.  I didn’t know exactly what I would be doing, but I had a title.

That was at the end of May 2012, and by his August 1 start date Pradeep had flown to the west coast several times, preparing to take the reins from Chancellor Marye Anne Fox.  I packed his clothes, shoes, books, and necessities for his move, while his Pittsburgh office staff packed 30-plus years of his papers, books, photos, and much more to be shipped to California.

Because I know how my high-energy husband loves to work nonstop, Pradeep moved to San Diego by himself for a year to settle in and get acclimated to being the Chancellor, while the rest of us stayed in Pittsburgh.  He was able to focus on meeting new people and learning new things, and we were able to, well, relax.

A few months later, the whole family—including our three children, my mother and my sisters—flew to San Diego for Founders’ Day and Pradeep’s Inauguration and stayed through Thanksgiving.

When we arrived we saw exactly how much Pradeep had been working: in the refrigerator was a box of eggs that had passed the “Sell By” date by two months and a half gallon of milk that had expired a few weeks before.  He claimed he had breakfast, lunch AND dinner meetings just about every single day for three months and never had a chance to eat at home.

For me, the move to San Diego has been the only big move of my life.  I grew up in Pittsburgh, went to college and graduate school in Pittsburgh, worked, got married, bought a house and had my children in Pittsburgh—all within a circle of about 10 miles from my childhood home.

Pradeep, on the other hand, had already made one big move in his life: he left his home in India to attend graduate school in Pittsburgh, where he met me, fell in love and stayed happily ever after—well, that is, until we moved to San Diego.

For me, living in San Diego feels like a perpetual summer vacation.  I can’t even begin to describe how different life here is compared to Pittsburgh, not only with our new roles here at UC San Diego, but with everything else.  Everything.  Nothing is the same, not the weather, not the landscape, not the schools…even avocados are cheaper in Pittsburgh, and they don’t even grow anywhere in that part of North America.

But the one thing here that is the most different from Pittsburgh is the sunshine.

Pittsburgh was just ranked the 17th gloomiest city in the United States—following 16 towns and cities in the Pacific Northwest—and then ranked second dreariest city in the country by a climatologist who accounted for both cloudiness and the number of rainy days to determine “dreariness.” I’m not so sure the climatologist understands how otherwise great Pittsburgh is, though, because he did his work from Anchorage, Alaska where they have entire seasons with 24 hours of sunny daylight.

I just don’t like the sunshine.  In San Diego, I go out of my way to stay out of the sun, so you will probably only see me outdoors before 11 a.m. and after dinner when the sun starts to set.  And if you ever find me outside, I will undoubtedly be sitting in the shade.

Our children have adapted to the weather much better than I have. Nathan, our older son, is in graduate school in Pittsburgh studying chemical engineering and he (and his friends) enjoy vacationing here.  The two younger ones, Alex, 17, and Nina, 14, attend school where there are no hallways, heat, or air conditioning because they are not necessary, unlike their school in Pittsburgh where hallways, heat, and air conditioning were staples of every day life.

We all live in the Audrey Geisel University House, which overlooks Black’s Beach.  Quite a few of our friends and neighbors from Pittsburgh have come to visit us, as have many of my sisters.  My mother also comes to stay with us for a few weeks at a time.  (You can readily find her sitting out in the sun, reading, all afternoon.)  One of our favorite activities is to sit outside on the back patio and watch the sun set over the ocean, something that I don’t believe any other Chancellor or President of a college or university in this country can do.

As Associate of the Chancellor, I officially represent the University at meetings, community activities, and alumni and fundraising events. Mostly what I do at the moment is to host—along with my husband—events at our house and get involved in various organizations on campus and the community.  What I really do, however, is just talk to everyone, everywhere I go.  In all honesty, that’s probably what I do best in life anyway, so I like to think that I am as well suited for my position as Pradeep is for his.

Actually, that’s how I got involved with the Friends conversation groups at the International Center.  I met Nori Faer at a campus event and we were talking (about the infernal sunshine, to be exact) and she invited me to come to one of the Friends of the International Center’s English conversation sessions.

Remember that Pradeep was an international student thirty years ago: he came to Carnegie Mellon from Mumbai, India.  In fact, when we met in school, he had only been in the U.S. for one academic year, so appreciating American life became an adventure that unfolded for me as well through his experiences.

Along with UCSD activities, I also take care of Alex and Nina and all their adolescent trials and tribulations.  Our family time takes place mostly on quiet weekends, when you might find us trying a new restaurant, attending one of the children’s school activities, or shopping (and eating) at La Jolla’s farmers market.

We’ve only been in San Diego for a relatively short time, but we’ve settled into our new lifestyle comfortably.  Although we frequently fly back to Pittsburgh to stay connected to all our family and friends—and snow and rain and clouds and good pizza and the Steelers/Penguins/Pirates and…well, a few more things—we’ve found our new home and a new future in La Jolla, and particularly at UC San Diego.

And whereas in Pittsburgh I had a snow blower, as well as several different kinds of snow shovels, in California I find myself accumulating a similar collection—but of sun blocks and sunscreens instead of snow removal equipment.