Hello to all CASI followers! My name is Alexandra Iqbal, I am nineteen years old, and I cannot believe I am saying this but I am going to be a junior at Penn next fall! Time really flies when you are having fun!
A little background on me: I have lived in Darien, CT for most of my life, but there was a time period from the ages of 2-5 when my family lived in Hong Kong. (It sounds a lot cooler than it actually was because I do not remember a lot about the experience since I was so young!) I also have one brother who is two years younger than me, but at least six inches taller seeing as he is over six feet.
One of the main reasons I wanted to go to India was because of my family’s background. My grandfather grew up in India and moved to Lahore, Pakistan after the partition. Unfortunately he died when I was very young so I do not remember him recounting his endless supply of entertaining stories, but the most amazing one I can remember my parents telling me was of his march with Gandhi. Apparently he was marching in protest of the British rule in a village in India with Gandhi and the British soldiers were surrounding the civilians; he said there was a commotion and the man to his left fell dead. He had been shot! The stories I have heard of my family and the region has enthralled me, but I have never been able to visit India nor Pakistan. This internship seemed like the perfect opportunity! Not only do I get to immerse myself in the culture and tradition of the region, but I get to work for an amazing NGO called the Central Himalayan Rural Action Group (CHIRAG).
CHIRAG is an organization, which works in one of the northern most regions of India called Uttarakhand. Here they have a number of areas in which they look to better the people and country, but I am looking to focus on their education and business areas. I am in the undergraduate program at the Wharton School of Business studying Marketing and Operations and Information Management. I hope to work with CHIRAG’s self-help groups, often called micro financing in other parts of the world, and their supply chain management of local fruit cooperatives in the mountains. I am very excited for the experience and cannot wait to start my journey!
I have just gotten back from a nice going away dinner with my family in Stamford, CT, only ten minutes from Darien, CT where I live and am now doing some last minute packing. My journey begins on Sunday, May 12th when I fly to Brussels to visit my friend, Eugénie from Penn for a couple of days, and then on Thursday, May 16th I fly to Delhi to meet up with the other CASI interns embarking on their various internships around the country. I will spend three nights at the India Habitat Centre Guest House and then on Sunday I will take, along with two other interns from Penn working with CHIRAG (Shobana and Jason) an over night train to a village, Nainital, in the northern region of India called Uttarakhand. From there we will take a five-hour car ride even further north into the mountains to the CHIRAG headquarters. It will be quite a trip, but I am sure we will enjoy ourselves and have many stories to tell from the long journey!
Going into this summer the big question I am asking is what will I be able to take away from my experience in India that will stay with me for the rest of my life? Will it be the food, the style of dress, or maybe the people and their experiences? I am excited to see where this summer takes me and cannot wait to be able to answer this question, but that will have to wait until July 26th when I am headed home on an 18-hour flight!
What am I most looking forward to most on my trip? I am looking forward to getting the opportunity to immerse myself in a completely new culture and way of life than what I have grown up around. I have heard about the culture through stories from my family, but I have never lived it or seen it. This will certainly be a life changing and humbling experience!
Okay, this post is already too long and I have to get back to packing, I will leave you with a picture of me, a new Nikon 1 J3 camera I got today for my trip, and the mess I must organize and put into my suitcase!