Some Background Before Boarding

Hello followers of the CASI blog! My name is Kendra and I am excited to embark on the my biggest geographical journey to date – going to India! I am also very excited to share my experiences through blogging. As I quickly unpack from a semester at Penn and repack for the summer’s adventures I have found just a little bit of time in which I can introduce myself.

Me (left) and a friend in Costa Rica in 2010.

Class trip to Costa Rica in 2010. Me (left) and a friend the only other time I have left the U.S.

I was born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland — and India will be my first stamp on my adult passport! I am a rising senior(!!!) in the College at Penn and I study Linguistics (rare, I know) and am minoring in American Sign Language and Deaf Culture. I will be interning this summer at Shahi Exports in Bengalore. Shahi is a clothing manufacturing company in Delhi and Bangalore that employs a large number of young women, many hailing from the more rural region Orissa. Our aim is research the experiences of employees and use our findings to help the company improve conditions for them (which hopefully improves manufacturing efficiency as well).

People have been asking me about my internship a lot. They want to know if I’m doing something with language or Deaf culture because that’s what I study. This is not exactly the case. Though I’ve loved all of my linguistics classes, reflecting on the last three school years I realized that what made my time worth it was all of the extracurricular activities and causes I was involved in. I am really involved with feminism on campus as a leader in Penn’s V-Day movement (we put on Eve Enlser’s Vagina Monologues every year).

This is me (and a feminist dog) at a Philadelphia protest against rape culture last Fall. Photo by CASI '14 program alum Dani Castillo

This is me (and a feminist dog) at a Philadelphia protest against rape culture last Fall. Photo by CASI ’14 program alum Dani Castillo

Though I love to talk about gender and feminism in the United States, I do not have much experience with it abroad. I know that different cultures dictate how concepts such as gender, sexism, and other socially constructed identities play out in every day life. So, in working at Shahi Exports I want to expand my knowledge of women’s experiences outside of the Western world. We’ll be starting in Delhi, spending some time in Orissa, and ultimately spending the majority of our time in the Bengalore factory. I hope that this will be an eye-opening experience. I guess the big question I am asking going into this summer is “how do women’s experiences differ in different cultural and geographical spaces?” I think I will have plenty of opportunities to observe this given the itinerary.

Finally…I am most looking forward to learning how to rock some kurtas and salwar kameez! I cannot wait to pick out some bright and interesting patterns when I get to Delhi. That, and the food. I hope my stomach is ready for some real Indian food, mmmm!

Hard to believe, but the next time you hear from me I will be IN INDIA!

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About Kendra Carson

Recent Penn graduate in linguistics, interned at Shahi Exports through CASI in 2015. Currently headed to Kolkata for 9 months as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant.