Why India?

Why am I in India? For the adventure of course! My name is Matthew Andersen. I’m inquisitive, spontaneous and I have a lot of goals for the summer, but I wouldn’t call myself a thrill seeker.

So if not for the thrill, why India? I saw it as an opportunity to maximize my academic and professional experience. I’m a freshman at UPenn studying Computational Biology and Statistics in both the College of Arts and Sciences and the Wharton Business school. What better to do than to intern at the Aravind Eye Hospital in Madurai, India to witness one of the largest optimizations of a business model with healthcare. But of course I didn’t come all this way to jot India down on my resume.

Prior to Penn I’ve lived, stationary, in Houston, Texas. However, I love to move. My attention wavers and I itch to get up and stretch. This is probably the reason I love to dance. I started recently, having joined the Pan-Asian Dance Troupe at Penn this last year. I’m by no means good at dancing, but I love to throw myself back and forth, swing around, watch and critique myself, then cycle again. You can’t get better at dancing if you don’t love to move. Rather than remaining in Houston once again, India was my opportunity to get up, and move onto something brand new. But there is so much of our world I haven’t seen, so of all places why did I choose India?

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Colors are nature’s way of drawing attention. What was India to me if not a country filled with a colorful variety of cloths, culture, and traditions. Years of history classes, while by far my least favorite subject, imbued images of towering temples, women in saris, and rich curries. Much like a bee drawn to a bright flower these images drew me to India.

Likewise, colors signal warning. Aposematism is the ecological defense mechanism of using vivid colors and patterns to signal danger. Along with the vibrancy that India had to offer came images of poverty, malnutrition and population explosion. These colors signaled to me mixed images. With the beautiful saris came a troubling history of gender discrimination and patriarchal social order. With the spices and the curry came the potential for bacterial infections and food poisoning. Nevertheless, I was drawn by these colors, enticed to see them for myself, and urged to make my own images. After a full year of the practice I can safely call myself a photographer, and between me, my Fujifilm XT1, and a summer in India, I saw a great opportunity to fully capture some rich new colors.

Why India? I get asked that question a lot. From my worried set of relatives, to the International Internship Program interviewers, to my friends discussing their summer plans. Each of my answers was tailored to meet their expectations and leave them nodding and satisfied by the end of their questioning. I on the other hand had no idea what to expect. The images I had in my head were merely extensions of others’ experiences. I had no idea if I was walking into a long summer vacation, or a tumultuous and exhausting internship. Nevertheless, I am determined to make my 10 weeks in Madurai into the greatest adventure I can.


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About Matthew Andersen

As a member of the class of 2020 it's quite fitting to be working at the Aravind Eye Hospital in Madurai this summer to improve worldwide vision. I'm enrolled in the Roy and Diana Vagelos Program in Life Sciences and Management studying Computational Biology and Statistics. I'm an avid learner, explorer, photographer, and dancer and plan do all of the above here in India.