It's been many years since Priyanka Chopra Jonas' parents sent her away to boarding school as a child, but the actor is still processing the trauma that came along with the experience.
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“Being sent away to school in the third grade was something I thought I had put to bed, but I was compelled to reconcile with for the book,” she told the magazine.
The March 2021 Elle UK cover girl recalled her experience at La Martiniere Girls’ Private School in Lucknow, India, saying she felt all alone when her parents left her there.
“What I remember vividly is the feeling of being abandoned—a feeling that lasted for a long time,” she said.
The actor's parents were a four-hour train ride away, and it took her several months to adjust to her new surroundings.
“I didn’t understand why I had been sent away,” she said. “I also didn’t understand why (my mom) couldn’t visit as often anymore.”
At the time, Chopra Jonas wondered if her mother wanted to focus more on her little brother, Sid, or if her tantrums had led her parents to make the decision. Alas, she would never find out.
“My mother didn’t explain her reasons for sending me to boarding school," she wrote in an excerpt of her memoir obtained by Elle. "Maybe because she didn’t fully understand them herself.”
Over time, the actor began to enjoy boarding school and started participating in other activities like singing and public speaking. When she was 13, Chopra Jonas took a trip to the United States for the first time with her mother and visited with relatives in Iowa. That experience changed everything for the teenager.
“In India, we wear uniforms in school, but in America I could dress the way I wanted,” she said. “Girls wore makeup and wore their hair down. They also wore shorter skirts. That was exciting.”
Soon enough, the teen jumped at the opportunity to attend school in the U.S. and live with her relatives. Chopra Jonas was expecting an extra level of freedom, but she didn't realize that she would also face racism in her new environment. As a sophomore in high school in Massachusetts, the actor was regularly heckled with racist slurs.
“I stopped taking the bus because I knew (my bullies) would be on it,” she wrote in her memoir, according to Elle. “I took different routes to classes even though they were longer; I stayed away from where they congregated at the lockers.”
After a year, Chopra Jonas had had enough and decided to move home.
“I broke up with America,” she told Elle, after seeing nasty messages about herself written in the bathroom.
Looking back on the experience, the actor is glad she left when she did and was able to work on her self-esteem back home.
"I think that if I had stayed it might have chipped at my confidence a lot more than it did," she said. "I feel blessed that I could go back home to the support and safety of my parents.”