Head in the Clouds

Hey everyone! Greetings from the small suburb of Ellicott City, Maryland! My name is Tina and I’m a rising junior concentrating in Finance and Social Impact with minors in International Relations and Religious Studies. I’m beyond excited to be working in Bangalore with Janalakshmi this summer. Janalakshmi is a microfinance company that falls under the Jana Urban Foundation, which is a nonprofit think tank that promotes financial inclusion as a path to empowerment. This aligns perfectly with my interest in how business can be a force for good without disregarding financial returns. I first became aware of the nuances of mission based for-profit organizations after taking a course called Knowledge for Social Impact. It showed me how to think outside the box of traditional nonprofits, and I soon learned about the inefficiencies and leadership challenges many of these organizations face. As I understood more about microfinance, and the good, the bad, and the ugly in the industry, I became more fascinated by its potential. Interning with Janalakshmi will allow me to learn by doing, and I feel so honored to have this amazing opportunity today.

I hope to use this summer to remind myself of the importance of serving others before I head down what is likely to be a very corporate career path. I think seeing the impact and understanding the role I play in an organization like Janalakshmi will help keep my own ambitions in context. I’m certainly going to enjoy spending time in India as well. The change of pace from my hectic Penn schedule to something more free and spontaneous will help me take a step back and live in the moment. I’m a hopeless romantic, and it has been something I’ve always longed to do. Traveling and taking more (calculated) risks are also high on my agenda, and India is a place where I will likely have little opportunity to visit after college. I’ve never gone abroad on my own before, so I’m confident this will be an exciting and humbling journey. Most importantly, I believe the dynamics of everyday interaction shift subtly when the culture and location changes. I hope to meet people who will challenge my perspectives and make friends who will shape me into a more mature, empathetic, and thoughtful person.

I’m sitting at my desk, surrounded by the literary works of the likes of Arundhati Roy and Rohinton Mistry, watching The Story of India in between my packing. I’m thinking about a twenty-hour flight and the blistering heat of May in New Delhi. I’m feeling mounting excitement streaked with a bit of uncertainty. How can anyone manage their expectations when the opportunity of a lifetime is finally within reach?

Thank you for reading this blog and for entertaining the rambling thoughts of a girl with her head in the clouds.

3 thoughts on “Head in the Clouds

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About Tina Gao

I'm currently in the class of 2018, concentrating in Finance and Social Impact with minors in International Relations and Religious Studies. I'm delighted to be interning with Janalakshmi in Bangalore this summer!