Youth Corner (Steve Kurien)

What was it like growing up as a first-generation American?
I was born in Kuwait and moved to Modesto when I was 5. It was a fairly easy transition. The American education system and lifestyle took a bit getting used to but overall I consider it a great blessing that my family and I got the chance to move here.

What positive impact did your background have on your life growing up?
My parents always remind me of the opportunities and technology I have here in the US, that they did not have access to growing up in India. I consider it a blessing from God.

What are your favorite memories from your visits to India?
The last time we went to India was in 2016. I have been to Kerala multiple times. One of the challenges is not having access to a phone or the internet for 3 weeks! But it is also nice to be disconnected for an extended period of time and only focus on what is in front of you. My favorite memory is from my most recent trip when we visited the Taj Mahal. In Kerala, we also went on a house boat which was a fun experience.

What advice would you give your ten-year-old self?
Read more books! As a kid, I would always stay away from them. I also wish I got into coding, especially growing up in Silicon Valley. I also wish I knew my passion for music earlier.

Describe life in college. What did you major in? Did you participate in any extracurricular activities?
I went to San Jose State University and I picked the major of Health Science with a concentration in Health Services Administration and a minor in Business. Prior to college, I worked at my Mom’s hospital as a volunteer and I liked that setting. Also, healthcare has always had an evergreen job market and that was another factor in choosing my major. As soon as I started college, I joined a Christian group called ‘Crew on Campus’ which was very beneficial to me. And that is one piece of advice I would give other freshmen — find a group of people and friends you can confide in. But otherwise, my college life mostly consisted of work and school. I worked in retail starting in my second semester of my freshman year and would continue to work two to three jobs through the rest of college, balancing school and work. One thing this taught me was that nothing is handed to you on a silver platter and you have to work hard to achieve things in life. I also wanted to be independent from my parents and work helped me with that goal. It also helps you identify areas of work that are of interest to you. I would definitely recommend this to other college freshmen.

How did you enjoy the freedom that college life offers while staying true to your Christian values and beliefs?
I was so busy during school that I had no time for other things. There are times when there is peer pressure to do things you don’t want to do. So it is important to have a core group of friends that you really resonate with and can confide in. Also to have friends who will not judge you for your positions. But most of the time I was just too tired from work and school! Another thing that kept me occupied was my passion for music. So try and find interests that will keep you occupied and away from doing things you are not proud of.

What advice would you give to someone entering college this year?
Have an open and honest relationship with your parents. My parents have been very supportive from school through college. It can be hard with Malayalee parents because you feel they can be judgemental. But if you can build trust with your parents, you can go to them with any problems you have — like changing your major mid way through college. Don’t be afraid to fail. As a sophomore I would look at my seniors doing amazing internships and I was in Retail. I have also failed many times — lots of interview rejections. But this only builds resilience and also helps you identify your strengths and weaknesses. Also, Have successful friends around you. I was always surrounded by Michael, Robin and Zachary and all their hard work and success rubbed off on me.

What are your first impressions of corporate life? Is it what you were expecting it to be heading in?
This is not what I expected at all! I work at Genentech in their Research and Early Clinical Development and working from home has been a real bummer. I have had earlier stints in corporate life but this is a very different experience. It feels like an endless cycle of work and sleep. I am a people person and I miss meeting my colleagues and the wonderful campus Genentech has by the Bay.

What do you do to unwind after work and on the weekends?
I visit my home and parents once a month or so.Work has been hectic but music helps me whenever I need a break and escape from the stress of work. On the weekends, me, Michael and Zachary recently got a chance to form a band, and we have been recording a lot of music. We’re also doing stuff for the Diocesan Youth Fellowship conference which will be virtual this year. I try my hand at cooking as well but I definitely enjoy eating more than cooking!

What impact has growing up in the Mar Thoma Church had on your life?
It has had a huge impact. When I was younger I would hate going to Church because I felt you had to stand for too long during the service! But it has truly been a blessing going to the Mar Thoma church because I have met so many great people. Not just at church but also the numerous conferences I went to like the Leadership conference in Atlanta this year. This helped me form a circle of friends across this country, Church has also helped me bring out my passion for music and I thank God for the opportunity to lead worship at church. I am definitely grateful for all the blessings it has brought me.

The above video is part of a conversation between Steve Kurien and Vivek Cherian.

The video highlights have been transcribed by Libi Cherian.

About Vivek Cheriyan

Member of San Francisco Mar Thoma Yuvajana Sakhyam & Young Family Fellowship