Humans of the U: Collin Vijenandan

“I am a professional Bharatanatyam dancer. I started learning this traditional dance when I was 5 years old. I’ve been continuously learning for 10 years, participating in annual dance programs, church Christmas celebrations, school programs and even being featured on two of the leading television channels in Sri Lanka during Diwali and Thai-Pongal festivals. I’ve also performed for Indian celebrities and at the Holy Family Church’s 150th anniversary, held at one of the grand hotels in Sri Lanka.

Bharatanatyam is an Indian classical dance. But the dance that I performed at this year’s International Night was a semi-classical dance, which combines classical and stylized dance steps. Classical dance itself has a lot of depth in it. Each facial expression and hand gesture has a specific meaning. The reason that I chose to perform a semi-classical dance was to make the audience understand and enjoy my cultural performance. I edited and mixed the songs and choreographed the dance using the knowledge that I’ve gained over the past 10 years.

I came to the U.S. in 2013 from Sri Lanka when I was 16. I started high school as a junior and graduated with an honors diploma from East High School.

I couldn’t get into the U right after high school because I had only been in the U.S. for two years and I had to show a lot of documentation from Sri Lanka. At first, I was so upset but then I realized that Salt Lake Community College would prepare me well for higher education because English is not my first language. I graduated with an associate biology honors degree in 2017 and got accepted to the U.

This was my second time performing at the U’s International Night. I also performed at the event in November 2017, three months after I began attending the U.

I didn’t have a lot of friends at that time. I wasn’t sure if anyone would like my performance. I thought only my parents would be there to support me because no one really knew me. But what happened was very surprising to me. By the time I stepped on the stage, everyone was welcoming me, taking pictures with me and cheering for me. I felt so blessed.

Thank you, U, for welcoming me and my culture and showing it to everyone here. I am truly grateful to be here at the University of Utah and thankful for all the opportunities U gave me.”

Collin Vijenandan, a pre-med student majoring in biology, minoring in chemistry and pediatric clinical research, graduating in Spring 2019

We’ll be featuring Humans of the U and sharing their stories throughout the year with the university community. If you know someone with a compelling story, let us know at ThisWeek@utah.edu.