International Student Finds Passion in Advocating for Affordable Higher Education

Because of her gender, Abinaya Prabakar ’15 was always told she could not do certain things and was always held to different standards than the males in her family.

Abinaya Prabakar

Abinaya Prabakar ’15 (business economics)

Prabakar is a third-year business economics student who has moved from country to country due to her father’s work as a software engineer working on temporary projects. She was born in India and lived in 10 different countries before moving to the United States six years ago.           

“I realized my passion for advocating for equality and education at a very young age,” she says. “I was motivated to stand up for myself and for the women in my family.”

Prabakar has accomplished many things that countless people take for granted. She is the first in her family to attend college, speak English fluently and to have a driver’s license. Many people around the world are denied access to basic rights and opportunities, she says, and Prabakar’s life experiences fuel her passion and aspirations to practice either immigration law or international human rights law, and her goal is to eventually own her own law firm.

Before moving to the United States, Prabakar lived in Singapore for five years.

Abinaya Prabakar with classmates in Singapore

Abinaya Prabakar with classmates in Singapore

“I had grown very accustomed to Singapore’s culture and people,” she says. “It was very hard for me to bid farewell to my close friends there and come to a completely new environment, where I had to quickly adjust to new people, a new culture and a new education system.”

Upon moving to the United States she watched a lot of American television shows to practice her American accent. After moving to Irvine, she realized that joining clubs and getting involved would help her make friends who share similar interests.

“I started to adapt quickly, and it felt more like home after I started to get involved,” Prabakar says.

Her visa status does not allow her to legally work in the United States. She cannot receive any financial aid or grants and can only apply to a limited number of scholarships. With this understanding, she chose to attend Cal State Fullerton to be of a lesser burden to her father, who pays for her education out of pocket. However, she would now say that choosing to attend CSUF is one of the best decisions of her life.

“I got involved and met so many amazing people who inspired me here at CSUF,” she says. “I have come to love the campus, my college, the people and all of the resources available here. I also realized my passion for law here.”

Prabakar has devoted much of her time to various organizations around campus in her last three years. She says she feels fortunate to be in the United States and wanted to try different things by helping out organizations and causes she feels very passionate about.

She was the advocacy coordinator for ASI Lobby Corps, an advocacy group here on campus that is devoted to voicing student concerns to our local legislators. Throughout the semester, the committee meets with local representatives to inform them of the issues affecting CSUF students. Prabakar says Lobby Corps has been an important factor to her college experience and that is has served as an avenue for her to advocate for higher education.

“I love CSUF, and I wanted to advocate not only for the current students struggling to afford their education but also help make CSUF accessible to more students in the future,” Prabakar says.

Students in Sacramento

Prabakar and fellow classmates pose in front of the California State Capital Building while attending the annual C.H.E.S.S. conference in Sacramento.

She has attended the California Higher Education Student Summit every year since she was a freshman.  This conference brings students from all CSU campuses together to work toward a common goal: make higher education accessible and affordable to students. Students meet with California state legislators to discuss their experiences and struggles in affording a college education.

“I am very thankful for all the opportunities I have had so far, and I feel that this conference allows me to reflect on the struggles I have had to overcome,” Prabakar says.  “At the same time, we get to help those who are still struggling to afford or even have access to higher education.”

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