Hi everyone! My name is Aditi Ahuja and I am a rising junior from New York majoring in biology and minoring in chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania. I just flew into India four days ago and have loved everything, from the food to the sites (everything except for the weather that is)! But now the short vacation is over and it is time to begin my internship with Aravind Eye Care. This notion still makes me fairly nervous, but more than that, after all the anticipation, I am excited to finally begin. I am one of the scarce pre-veterinary students at Penn, and normally I should be doing a veterinary internship over the summer, but when I heard of the internship with Aravind Eye Care, I knew that it would be an amazing opportunity.
I have always wanted to be a veterinarian and have interned at many veterinary hospitals and clinics. Over the previous summer, I shadowed a veterinary ophthalmologist, and I became interested in the intricate and life-changing world of eye care. I fell in love with this field that restores vision using a delicate balance of surgery and medical treatment, but at the same time, I became more acquainted with the struggle owners face to pay for necessary treatments. This is why I first became interested in the Aravind internship. Aravind Eye Care is an inspirational organization whose goal is to eliminate needless blindness in India, regardless of cost. In 2015, the Aravind Eye Hospital network completed approximately 3.5 million outpatient treatments and over 401,000 surgeries with an estimated average cost of less than twenty dollars per surgery. I know that interning at Aravind will allow me to immerse myself in ophthalmic medicine and to study the model that provides such outstanding care at low cost to patients. I cannot wait to learn from and be motivated by the dedicated staff around me. I just hope that I am able to contribute something in return.
However, the ophthalmic aspect and the ambitious goal of ubiquitous affordable treatment were not the only things that drew me to this internship; its location in Madurai, the cultural capital of Tamil Nadu, India, was a huge factor. I have always wanted to develop a sense of “my own India”. All my life I have traveled to India, and I have loved being a tourist and visiting family, but I know that I see a restricted image of India through the eyes of others. This will be the first time I have some degree of freedom within India, and I want to explore as much as I can, and take in the unique scenery and the deep culture with my own eyes. Of course, I still appreciate many of the same things that I have always loved about India, such as the fantastic food, family and friends, etc. But after traveling to Agra and around Delhi with my fellow interns, I am already starting to develop my own appreciation for the culture and the heritage of this country. I hope that over the next ten weeks I will be able to truly find my home here in India.