India, one year later

Dear CASI Interns,

Almost one year ago, I was half way through my internship at Samaj Pragati Sahayog. The Indian monsoon had descended on our small rural village, Becky (my dear friend and fellow intern) and I were donning ridiculous full-length floral rain jackets that looked like shower curtains, and we had just returned from a weekend trip to Maheshwar with our new friends.

These small anecdotes make me smile and laugh inside, but also make me miss India incredibly. (As I have woefully lamented to Aparna many times, reading your blogs make me nostalgic and slightly jealous.)

When I first got home, I wanted to tell everyone about my experience, but not everyone understood. (“So where did you go the bathroom??” was a common question) Then I got back to Penn and NSO began, and that time I was sitting in a cow dung hut eating rotis and daal off of old newspaper with Becky and our friends seemed like it wasn’t real as I went to silly themed parties and crammed my way into Smokes. And then OCR began and everything I thought I wanted to do prior to going to India wasn’t as crystal clear as it once was.

For those reasons, I’ve realized how important it is to have pieces of your trip to bring home, memories that will always be there for when you want and need them most. I am sure Aparna has reminded you to document your trip, but I didn’t truly appreciate that piece of advice until I got home. That is not to say you will have the same experience as I did, but I am just here as a reminder for you.

And so, here are a few silly, yet very accurate, reasons why photos matter: 

1. Because you may be the next poster child for CASI and Penn publications.

Whether I like it or not, there is a picture of Becky and I riding on the back of a bullock cart in Career Services, the bulletin board of VP, the front page of the CASI brochure, and most recently, a full length page in a publication sent to all of Penn’s donors. 

2. Because when you are stuck in Van Pelt at 11 pm on a Sunday night working on your thesis, the best way to be re-inspired is to look at photos from the field.

There was only so long I could read about agricultural production in India without wanting to fall asleep.

3. Because when you are contemplating whether to sit behind a desk and write emails and look at spreadsheets 9-5 for your next career move, sipping sugary chai while interviewing farmers and riding on a crowded bus where everyone wants to know your name is something you really did

Seriously can’t emphasize this enough….

4. Because photos help you keep your India memories REAL and within reach.

Here are some of my own pictures. They uploaded in 5 seconds, now aren’t you jealous?Image

This last one is for you, Becky, if you are reading. (Aashna – show this to Prasant if you can 🙂 )Image


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About Natalie Volpe

Class of 2013, majored in Environmental Management and Sustainability, minored in International Development. Intern at Samaj Pragati Sahayog in Summer 2012. Philadelphia native, currently living and working in SF in cleantech. Always missing Aparna, Professor Kapur, my SPS buddy Becky, and Neemkheda.