Proudly Penn

I meant to write this 20 days ago, but better late than never, so here it goes.

This blog is a collection of stories, experiences, and reflections from undergraduate and graduate students who have spent a summer India through CASI’s Student Programs. It also represents a community of young Penn students who found a voice and forum to question their own beliefs, upbringing, and privilege while marveling in all that is unique in India.

On October 5, 2012 we had our first CASI Student Intern Symposium. We heard from ten of our student interns and the CASI office was packed! As always, it is a true delight to see familiar young faces in the audience, but there were several new students, Penn Staff, alumni, and others from different parts of campus that joined in to hear our students present on their summers.

We heard from the Aravind trio, known as NanWuWare (Sindhu, Christina and Sam), about the inspiring Aravind mission, staff, and how exactly they became one with their organization during their ten weeks in Madurai. With the backdrop of breathtaking forests and Himalayan views, Lucia and Shumita learned from the women who invited them into their lives as daughters and encouraged questions, chai, and cultural exchange. Ali, Eliana, and Sudi, spent the summer at Educate Girls and probably had the most challenging summer, but confidently relayed their greater lessons on education advocacy and gender inequalities. And lastly, Becky and Natalie, our SPS duo, laughed and giggled but shared deeply moving stories about their summer months and how they navigated the middle of India where living in remote rural drylands translated to more time spent with the people around them, including each other. The presentations were phenomenal. I am inspired by their new understanding of the NGO sector in India and the projects they took on, but more importantly, I am deeply moved by their stories of personal transformation. And they are all asking “what next?” in an entirely different way.

Today was the International Opportunities Fair and our table was giddy with excitement. I barely got time to interact with the new students that navigated their way to us and am so proud to see our CASI interns speak so confidently for their program. They know their own projects and experiences, but more importantly, they know and understand one and others. This is community.

CASI internships are still in the process of being sorted out for summer 2013. Join our facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/CASIPenn and find our students. They have a wealth of knowledge about their internship experiences, NGOs, CASI, and India; and they are more than happy to keep talking about their summers.

CASI students will be hosting ‘chai chats’ on campus in November and December. Stay tuned.

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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.