At 17, Puneet Joshi ’12 arrived in the land of opportunity and was instantly filled with doubt.
Joshi had left his family, as well as the comfort and security of his home in Chandigarh, India, to share shifts with his father at a Palmyra, N.J., gas station in exchange for a place to live in the United States.
“At the time, I was adjusting to a new life and a new culture, and I was frustrated by the fact that I had to work so hard to be where I am,” Joshi said. “I questioned whether or not I had made the right decision about coming to America, mostly because I was young and never truly had to work for anything before in my life.”
Discouraged by what, on the surface, seemed to be an unpalatable change in fortune, Joshi was unexpectedly disappointed.
“Coming to America was a gift that I had always wanted, but once I got it, I no longer wanted it,” he explained.
Only when Joshi began applying himself in his studies and utilizing the resources around him did he realize the value of his opportunity. While his father returned to India, Joshi continued to work full-time while attending Palmyra High School in Burlington County. He began to interact with classmates and excel in his studies there, seeing advantages where they lay. In India, Joshi was unable to rely on a calculator, and he soon learned he had a competitive edge over his peers in America who were provided with one. For Joshi, the big picture was coming into focus.
In a college application essay he named The Ugly Tie, Joshi would later describe his epiphany. Drawing a parallel between his struggle to thrive and the seemingly disappointing gift of a tie, Joshi realized that he had to pair maturity with opportunity to make it all work – in effect, find the suit that made the tie dazzle.
“In order for me to get the gift I wanted,” he recalled, “I had to work hard and make the best of the gift.”
As he grew and matured over those next two years in his new surroundings, he began to set the course for success as an Accounting and Finance dual major at Rider University and a promising future in public accounting. The graduating senior will join the audit department of the certified public accounting firm, EisnerAmper LLP.
Looking back on the relationships and resources that have helped him along the way, Joshi is particularly grateful for one particular lesson: that hard work certainly pays off. Joshi is a 2011-2012 recipient of The Dr. Belmont F. Haydel Phi Sigma Kappa Endowed Scholarship, a 2011-2012 recipient of the SAP University Alliances Community Scholarship, and a 2010-2011 recipient of The Lewis D. Coleman ’50/Steven B. Kalafer ’71 Endowed Scholarship.
“The extra help was appreciated. It definitely eased my financial burden,” said Joshi, who took two part-time jobs to pay for his education and is no longer relying on others for support.
Joshi admits, however, that the scholarship support and other opportunities he has been afforded would not have been possible without the backing of others.
“I was really fortunate to have such great mentors throughout my journey and life,” he explained.
Joshi met Lorita Foster in her English class during his junior year of high school. He recalls that his teacher seemed to know him even when he doubted himself, and provided him guidance throughout school and as he began applying to colleges. While Joshi remains enrolled at Rider, Foster and her husband, Franklin, invite him to stay at their home during the winter and summer breaks.
“They basically made me part of their family. I now spend Thanksgivings and Christmases at their home,” he said. Over time, as he learned about their culture, he would share knowledge of his own customs with the Fosters.
Rider was an attractive choice to Joshi because of its location and the reputation of its five-year Accounting program, where he could obtain his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He was also able to get involved in extracurricular activities that allow him to showcase his leadership abilities. Joshi currently serves as vice president of the Accounting Society and is also the public relations chair of Beta Alpha Psi.
“Dr. Gene Kutcher is one of my biggest mentors today in my life,” said Joshi about the adviser of DAARSTOC (Developing Administrative Abilities and Resources through the Synergistic Training of Organizational Competencies). “His commitment to the organization is unbelievable. He has guided me in my decision making. Talking to him gives me a better idea of what to do.”
A valuable internship last summer in the audit division of EisnerAmper LLP also brought Joshi key experience in the accounting profession, which he parlayed into a job offer. This spring, Joshi is working in the Accounting and Finance Department of the Johnson & Johnson office in Titusville, N.J., during a six month co-op.
Joshi has used his good fortune to pay it forward. As a mentor in the Center for International Education, he uses his experience to help international students in transition.
“I tell them, ‘There’s a reason why you are here. Everything that happens, happens for a reason. This is what you decided to do. So give the best effort and everything will fall in place.’”
A version of this story appears in the spring 2012 issue of Rider magazine.