How many planes does it take to get to Madurai?


Hello CASI blog followers,

My name is Diana Blidarescu, and I’m a rising senior in the College studying French studies with minors in Chemistry and Biology. I was born in California, but needed a change of scenery for college. Clearly, I still need more change of scenery. I am very excited to be traveling to Madurai this summer for the Aravind program.


When Alexis de Tocqueville a French aristocrat visited America in 1831 he noticed something particular to the American people. Since Americans were born in a democracy, they never felt the need to question their form of government and their culture. Similarly, many Americans today believe that their system and their way of life is the best. No questions posed. Recently, critical eyes have been turned on the healthcare system of the United States. One of the more troubling concerns is the absolutely staggering cost combined with the not so stellar health results. I think it is important to study other healthcare models to understand what works, what doesn’t, and what we can learn to improve our system for the better.


Aravind EyeCare Hospital is an incredible example of a successful hospital because of their efficiency, low cost, and outstanding success rates. Compared to similar institutions in the UK, Aravind has lower costs and better outcome rates. As I was learning about Aravind, the story of the founder of Aravind stood out to me. In the 1970s, avoidable blindness lingered as a major health problem in India.  Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy saw this problem and wanted to find a solution. In 1976 at the age of 58, he established the AravindEyeHospital. Reading about Dr. V’s story reminded me of how much potential each person has and how much one person can accomplish. I think I’m going to India to redefine the limits of who I think I am, what I believe in, and what I want to accomplish in the next 70 years.   

Besides my “lofty” aspirations, I am looking forward to living in a country where I don’t speak the language. I have spent extensive time in both Romania and France, but the former is my parent’s language and the latter I have been studying for 7 years. I have never traveled to Asia, and I am excited to live somewhere completely different from anywhere I have been exposed to before. Undoubtedly, I’m used to “first world” standards. I guess for me that means not thinking twice about how things work. Stoplights. Metro systems. CVS and Starbucks on every corner. Hot water. Tap water. Wifi.


I’m looking forward to living without things that I have considered “essential” for so long. And I’m looking forward to riding an elephant. I’ll tell you how it goes.




3 thoughts on “How many planes does it take to get to Madurai?

  1. Diana, I am so excited for you ! It was your decision to branch out into a new zone of life experiences, motivated by the ideal mix of curiosity and a desire to improve the life of others. It has been a privilege to provide support and stimulation on your journey thus far. MR

  2. Hi, I’m from Diana Fan Club and I will track all your professional life in Madurai, in this summer.
    I wish you to have interesting experiences and to meet friends for life. Pupici (Bisous) !

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About dblidarescu

A 2014 Penn grad, I am exploring the next step in my professional development. I had the opportunity to do the CASI Aravind 2013 program.