CASI Interns back at Penn

Saturday morning bright and early, the clouds loomed heavy over the city skyline. I was coming down from New York to Philly — bagels, cream cheese and strawberries in tow. Classes started three days ago and the CASI interns had yet to officially come together since May (which can now be referred to as the time before India). As I walked up Locust walk the skies appeared to open up just for us and I soon ran into Abby armed with two jugs of orange juice! It had turned into an absolute perfect morning for a picnic on the green. 

CASI interns Abby, Laura, Sudeep, Shrestha, Isabel, and Bhargavi joined together this morning to swap summer stories, think about life post Penn, and discuss creating a community initiated by CASI students that could stretch beyond their summers.

Sudeep had asked me a few weeks ago about culture shock, my response: “it’s life long.” And in many ways it is. But I will say that there is something very special about the way that we can easily connect with people who have had similar experiences and the CASI interns are certainly a unique group. Ten weeks in India can be both powerful and life changing.

On another note, tomorrow marks ten years since September 11th. At the time I was a senior running down the stairs of Bennett Hall just released from my Gandhi’s India history class. I crossed a friend in the hallway who announced the U.S. was under attack as a passing statement. I had no idea what he was talking about but soon found myself sitting in a circle out on the green slowly joined by friends who passed by us on Locust walk. We were unsure of what this meant in terms of our lives, the world, and our future.

That year I went to as many talks as I could and took my first political science class. Little did I know that I would come to spend six years in India and go to graduate school to study public policy. I might have done it anyway, but apparently, there are more people now pursuing careers in international development and policy than ever before.

It seems only fitting that ten years later I would find myself back on Penn’s campus, out on the green, and surrounded by students who have just come back from India. Together they are thinking about careers in international development — health, policy, environment and beyond — and they are excited to connect with students and alumni just like them who might have done something off the beaten track somewhere in the world.

Ten years ago, it was difficult for a twenty something year old college student to think about spending a summer in India. I feel very lucky to be surrounded by a group of curious, passionate, and thoughtful Penn students who have just spent their summers exploring and experiencing grassroots India first hand.

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About Aparna Wilder

Associate Director, CASI Student Programs and Outreach After graduating from Penn, Aparna spent six years living and working in India. She volunteered with Indicorps and started her own production house, global rickshaw, that makes short films in collaboration with NGOs and non-profit organizations. Aparna is a TED India Fellow and holds an MPA from Columbia University.