I came to remember the bite of a mosquito again after a long separation, or more realistically after one year. This whole idea of me going abroad while being abroad already sounded hugely novel, I guess. More correctly, I would say that I am abroad to the second power (Abroad2 as in x2). Adding more context to my claim, my name is Aimé Bienfait Igiraneza and I am an international student from Burundi, a rising sophomore in the college of Arts and Science, member of the class of 2020. Although my major in college is not clear yet, I am faintly considering “Logic, Information, and Computation” in addition to being on the pre-med track. For the summer of 2017, I am an intern at Aravind Eye Care System, in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, a Southern State of India.
Talking about how I ended up at Penn from Burundi would be a long story for another day. Rather, let me focus on a shorter story about how I got to India from Penn. Since I started college in the US, studying abroad or interning abroad was not part of my thoughts. Weirdly enough, I was surprised to find myself applying to an internship in India through a Penn program called CASI (Center for Advanced Study of India). At some point, I had to take some time and try to understand why my instinct was attracted to India, and I found very profound reasons for choosing an internship at Aravind in India. In fact, I found almost the same reasons that pushed me to long for leaving Burundi and study abroad.
The truth is, India, not to mention Aravind itself, has unique features that are not found anywhere else, and which fit into my career goals and endeavors. Born and raised in the Third World, I always dream of eventually helping that part of the world to see the sun that developed countries have been enjoying for a long time. Thus, I find it more relevant for me to gain practical skills in a relatively poor setting as I progress in my studies in the US. While going back to Burundi each summer could be a straightforward option, I also need to keep learning new things, meeting new people, experiencing other cultures, and extending my friendship and professional network… which is basically why I wanted to go to India. Anyway, India does look a little closer to Burundi in the sense that it’s not an entirely developed country. For instance, I now need to worry about mosquitoes, an experience that I had in Burundi for a good 18-year period. Since my very first day in India, dealing with the heat has been an everyday lesson. But more importantly, I have been constantly learning about new ways of living, getting inspired by people’s ways of thinking.
At Aravind, the staff’s impeccable work commitment is not found in many places in the world. How much of an inspiration I gain everyday cannot be overemphasized. Based on the first week I have spent at Aravind, I can anticipate a new self with so much knowledge to be grateful for by the end of the 10 weeks in Madurai. I strongly believe that my summer could not have been any better.