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Forget Pitbull: Pace’s Very Own ‘Mr. Worldwide’

Sophomore Ryan Varma shows sophomores Shalizeh Thobani (left) and Allie Campbell (right) some of his favorite songs. Photo: Darren Rosing

Spirit Week is a hectic week for most students. Continuous excitement and a ridiculous sleep schedule can make anybody cranky. But it can get even crazier if Spirit Week is your very first week as a Pace student, AND if it happens to be your very first week as a United States resident. This was the thrilling case for new sophomore Ryan Varma. 

Varma landed in Atlanta on Sunday, Jan. 5 at 8 p.m. after roughly 21 hours of flying from Singapore, just in time for his first day at Pace the next morning. But 21 hours of flying, driving and waiting in the airport is nothing to a world traveler.

Varma was born in Malaysia and moved to Indonesia a year later. Then, his family (which includes an 18-year-old brother) lived in Cairo, Egypt for three years, where Varma’s first memories are from. After Egypt, the family lived in Singapore for two years before moving to Turkey. Two years later, the family returned to Singapore, where Varma lived for eight years. 

When reminiscing on his pretty nomadic life, Varma is thankful for his worldly perspective. “I loved Turkey because the weather and place was beautiful,” he said. “The culture there is amazing. But Singapore is my favorite place because it’s where I found myself and identity. It’s where I really grew up and know the most about.”

His dad’s work is the force behind his family’s moves. For the past five years, his dad has been working for Coca-Cola, prompting the Varma family’s move to Atlanta. “I don’t think we’re going to be moving any time soon,” said Varma. “I definitely plan on graduating from Pace.” 

Contrary to the “Lifers” who have been at Pace since pre-first, Varma has been an enrolled student at six different schools. With the move to Atlanta, he looked at several schools in the area, including the Atlanta International School and Westminster. “Pace was my top pick,” said Varma. 

Living all over the world naturally allows for encounters with many different languages. “I’m fluent in English, which for some reason surprises a lot of people here,” said Varma. “That’s actually the first language I learned, since my parents wanted me to have a base language while moving around a lot.”

He can speak Hindi pretty well, and knows a little bit of Mandarin, Turkish and French. Additionally, he has studied Spanish for four years, which is the language he takes at Pace. “It’s been a disappointing start since my mind is just so fried, but I’d say I’m pretty decent at Spanish, too.”

In accordance with his diverse background and cultural interests, Varma hopes to participate in Pace’s Model UN program. While he does play tennis, he is currently battling ligament injuries, preventing him from participating on a Pace tennis team this year. “I’ll definitely consider trying out in the future,” said Varma.

Being so new to Pace, he is not sure which clubs he wants to participate in, but the Pace Academy Board of Diversity (PABD) interests him. Looking into the future, Varma has always had aspirations to attend university in America, although he does not know where or what he’d like to study yet. 

“In my free time, I do anything I feel like doing at the moment, really,” said Varma. He just recently finished watching “You” on Netflix and loves the series “How I Met Your Mother.” When it comes to music, he’s all over the place. “I like pretty much most types of music, but country music is starting to catch on and I’ve only been here for a week,” said Varma. “It’s not too bad.”

As the school community gets to know a true expatriate, Varma has a message for his classmates: “To all the sophomores that have been really nice and showed me around or started a conversation, I appreciate it, and we’ll see where the next two and half years take us.”


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