Madanarachchige Sama “I love it at SMC because we’ve got a huge number of international students. But I’ve also made friends with a lot of Americans.”

Mark Twain once quipped that some German words are so long that they disappear into the horizon like railroad tracks. So it is with the name of Madanarachchige Sama. “Yeah, a lot of people have trouble with my first name. So I have mercy on them, and tell them they can just call me Sam,” he says with a laugh. Sam (as we too will now refer to him, in order to avoid writers’ cramp!) is from Sri Lanka, once known as Ceylon and a former part of the British Empire. And some of the British influence—including Sam’s excellent English—still endures.

“Yes, we play a lot of cricket back home. It’s a great game, but there’s not a lot of it played in America. So I might just have to learn basketball!” But life is far from a game for Sam. “What happened to me was that I got my Green Card: I won the lottery!” he reports. “So I decided to come to America, because the studying here is much more serious. And because I want to go into aerospace, I believe the best place for me to be is in California. And I got to SMC because everybody told me it’s just the best. And I have found that to be true.”

It’s Sam’s plan to “transfer to Cal State Long Beach. And then—maybe 10 years from now—I think I’ll be working for NASA or Boeing.” When asked if he might like to work on a new version of a 747, he laughs and replies, “They’re already working on that, so they don’t need my help… yet!” Sam’s heavy science program is going exceedingly well, but he admits missing his native land. “Oh yes, we still have a small war going on at home. But it doesn’t affect our lives very much. And Sri Lanka is just really a very beautiful country.”

Read more stories from present and past years in the SMC Student Spotlight Archive.