Attention: You are using an outdated browser, device or you do not have the latest version of JavaScript downloaded and so this website may not work as expected. Please download the latest software or switch device to avoid further issues.

News > Alumni Stories > Living Abroad Fueled the Life and Works of a Prominent Writer—Terin Miller

Living Abroad Fueled the Life and Works of a Prominent Writer—Terin Miller

Living Abroad Built a Bank of Images and Experiences, Fueling the Life and Works of a Prominent Writer, Alumnus Terin Miller

By Clare Perry (AES Content Writer and Alumni Link)

As the son of two anthropology professors, born into a family that would take him to culturally rich places bursting at the seams with details to animate his mind, Terin was destined to become a writer. Further, as a middle school student at AIS/AES during the 1970’s, Terin was destined for a life-long interest in both Indian culture and the lives of people living all over the world. 

Terin spent only two years at AES/AIS but the building blocks of this experience—the immersion in Indian Studies, the global network of students and families, walks and bicycle rides in his Greater Kailash neighborhood, bus rides to Chanakyapuri, the dynamic setting and even the approach to teaching and learning—continue to replicate within the DNA of his identity. He formed friendships with kids from around the world that have in turn—even as recently as this year’s AES NYC reunion—led to new connections with alums, some of whom were not even on campus when he was. It is not the shared timeline but the shared experience of AES and India that unites Terin with this ever-expanding network of global citizens. 

Some have suggested to Terin over the years that he might have a photographic memory as he is able to see text and recreate it on paper—handy, as he says, for tests. But what’s more remarkable about the way his brain works is its ability to capture and describe distinct visuals of a scene or experience. In terms of his days at AIS/AES, some of his colorful memories include: 

  • hanging out on the rocks, under the shade of the willow trees.
  • eating his gritty, ground-up, oily peanut butter and guava jelly sandwich with a bottle of Coke at lunch time, startled when a Kite bird swooped down and cut a kid's face with its talons as it grabbed a sandwich out of the kid's hand.
  • Coke bottles shattering when you tried to open them because of the heat.
  • playing soccer with Nepali kids from a rival school, and Coach Wicklander at half-time cutting limes in half, sprinkling them with salt and telling us to suck the juice out of them—apparently invent [ing] 'Gatorade.'
  • sandbags at the entrances to the classrooms and the frequent threat of daylight air raids during the brief, two-week 1971 Indo-Pakistani war.

Terin describes his first significant storytelling milestone to be at around the age of five. In response to the usual beginning-of-school-year question “[h]ow did you spend your summer,” Terin described a few highlights of his past year in the hill districts of Darjeeling, Simla and Kalimpong. Not a typical response for a Wisconsin Kindergartener. And while perhaps most significant was Terin being able to see the uniqueness of his lived experience, his reflections also led him to connect with another young global nomad of sorts—a kid who had just returned from Denmark. The power of connection through shared narratives! 

Not long after, in first or second grade, Terin produced his first written piece of fiction—a story about a friend who was the crown prince of Sikkim and about getting rescued by the crown prince's father, the King of Sikkim. These characters were images playing around in his head and eager to get out onto the page. His mother—recognizing Terin’s urge to spill these rich images and experiences into text—happened to leave (or rather strategically place) an Olivetti-Princess manual typewriter on his desk. There was no looking back; he was launched!

Years later, Terin studied journalism at the University of Wisconsin (UW), which included a return to his already beloved India—through a program that represented a perfect opportunity to meld his interest in writing with his passion for India. He was in fact the first journalism major to go to India through that program. His career after college included a decade of crime journalism (while in India on the UW program, he covered the first trial of Charles Gurumukh Sobhraj, "Serpentine," in Varanasi for The Associated Press) and then a switch—ten years was enough for crime writing—to business journalism. Some of his favorite journalistic work has included: as a crime reporter, the time he investigated the death of a high school student due to faulty wiring and a rainstorm at a regional football game, and as a business reporter, covering Spain's economy and politics from 1994–1997. All along Terin has also been writing fiction; in fact he states that one of his reasons for studying journalism was to become a better fiction writer.

Terin likes to share his passion for writing with others. He believes in helping with the “how” to write but not the “what.” This belief follows the reasoning that everyone has their own pictures in their minds primed to be etched into text, and that each person has their own creative flair to bring to this process. The most important role in helping others write, Terin believes, is to help generate a person’s creative spark. 

When asked to reflect on his time at AIS/AES, Terin describes the intricate details of an experience or setting but the glue of his narratives seems to be the human connection he has with each memory. As an example, Terin tells of arriving in Delhi without his drum set nor drum teacher and his parents’ subsequent arrangement for both. What came next was his discovery of two other young aspiring rock ‘n rollers—R.J. Tettero on keyboards and Paul Bollenback on guitar. Their connection was sealed. As was Terin’s sense of belonging to a forever network of Third Culture Kids (TCK’s)—kids from around the world being resourceful and united in their quest to create community away from any one home country. And all of this is reflected in Terin’s writing—a balance struck through his ability to paint pictures with words and to weave these pictures together in ways that make the stories hold meaning. 

Terin has not been back to India since 1988 but has promised his wife a trip to the place that she has always known is elemental to his identity. We hope very much that he will make the trip soon and perhaps share some of his AES inspired work.

Similar stories

Most read

Have your say

This website is powered by