CASI Student Programs Return

There’s life before you went to India, and life after you return.

I can never forget how my eyes widened while I walked beside the supersize items at Costco. Freshly returned from my first two years in India, I just couldn’t imagine storing so much soap at home! I was perplexed how strangers could sit in silence fixated on their phones while waiting for the next number at the DMV. And in my more intimate spaces, friends who I had known all of my life seemed to care about such different things.

Of course, six years in India would change me forever. But I quickly learned, the more times you return home the transition becomes more natural and fluid. Communities form around shared experiences, and the friends I stayed close with during my years in India, are closer to me now in ways that are just understood.

Over the past few weeks, I have picked up bits and pieces from CASI students on their internships, thoughts on returning home, adventures, challenges, and celebrations. The white board in my office is packed with quotes from past interns and research students. My current favorite owned by 2013 CASI Intern Jason Maccabee, “I made chai while I was there! I used garlic and tamarind. It was so good!” Jason’s sales pitch was tight, and his excitement truly contagious. If he handed me a cup, I know I would drink it. But after a little convincing he agreed, it was probably ginger and cardamom.

I’ve collected some of the words and phrases from our students over the past few weeks and they can be summarized as follows:

We learned to be street smart.
We learned that it is difficult do development work from the U.S.
While we were there we could see ourselves in people our age, but wondered how our futures might look differently in the long term.
We tried to understand the differences in India, North to South, culturally, linguistically, and how that feels so new to us but deeply embedded in India itself.
We were invited to people’s homes and treated as family.
We learned to get by without language.
We are understanding why this experience matters not only for what it is, but how we engage with the world from now onwards.

The human connections and relationships we build when we are outside of our comfort zones provide us with some of the most stimulating and enriching learning experiences.

Please join us if you are on campus Friday afternoon, October 4, 2013.

2013 CASI Student Programs Symposium
Stiteler Hall, Silverstein Forum, 208 South 37th Street, 2-5 pm

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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.