My name is Mary Stachofsky, and I am from Reno, Nevada. I am in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania and will be graduating in 2015 as a double major in Economics and Visual Studies. This summer I will be interning with the Central Himalayan Rural Action Group in the Nainital District of Uttarakhand in northern India. I have been interested in the economics of development for a long time, and one of my major goals for the summer is to explore this field. My hope is that over the course of my internship I will be able to gain first-hand experience in a developing region so that I can learn which strategies for growth are most effective and how to implement them in practice. I believe that a key step to achieving this goal will be interacting with the villagers as much as possible. I would love for my project to be focused on sharing their stories through photographs and writing because my greatest passion is art.
I want to work in India specifically because one of the best human beings I have ever met is from India. In my freshman dorm, I was lucky enough to be next-door neighbors with a boy named Vishwa. His family moved to Dubai after his father’s business took off, but he grew up in a one-bedroom home with twelve other people in Gujarat, India. He is one of the most intelligent and genuinely kind people I have ever known, and we will without a doubt be lifelong friends. Speaking with Vishwa about his home country is interesting. He loves the culture of India, excitedly explaining the plot of whatever Bollywood movie is playing and urging me to try the samosa chaat at the Indian restaurant we frequent. Yet his work ethic and open-mindedness reflect how thankful he is to be in the U.S., away from India’s chaotic infrastructure. I want to work in India to improve the opportunities of Indian people who are not as lucky as Vishwa was while experiencing the culture he speaks of so fondly.
Immersing myself in this vibrant, colorful culture is what I am most looking forward to. I just arrived in Delhi today (after over a full day of travel, so I am a bit of a zombie right now) to stay with some family friends; I have already enjoyed hearing a brief history of the neighborhood, listening to a humorous political discussion, and drinking tea with cake. I am a huge foodie, and I hear the food at Chirag is spectacular. Plus, past interns and Vishwa have both raved about the mangoes you can get in the summer. I cannot wait to try everything and to meet the cooks at the canteen. It was also very important to me during the application process that I try to find a program that is in a rural area and that allows for homestays. I have never done a homestay (I studied abroad in London this fall but stayed in a dormitory) and am excited to have the unique opportunity to spend time living with the villagers. Above all, I am excited to get away from the craziness of day-to-day life at Penn and in Philadelphia. Sometimes I feel like I live at the library, spend half my day responding this or that email, and would not be able to survive a day without my iPhone. This is my chance to change this routine—to get off the grid and hike in the hills, to throw myself into my project, and to try new foods and travel new places and make new friends. I cannot thank Penn and CASI enough for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I will not take a single moment for granted.