As I zip up my suitcase—filled with Chacos, a jar of peanut butter, and excitement for the impending summer—the realization that tomorrow morning I am heading to India for ten-weeks finally sets in. A mere two weeks ago, I was a college sophomore anxiously awaiting the end of another school year so that my summer journey could begin, and now it is about to start!
The journey to my IIP-CASI internship began a year-and-a-half ago during the spring break of my freshman year. Through the amazing department of the Fox Leadership program located at Penn, I participated in a cultural immersion trip to India headed by Penn professor Dr. Femida Handy. Through this trip, where we visited the cities of Bangalore and Mysore in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, I felt a large sense of personal growth and development through an exposure to the juxtaposition that India offers—the poorest of the poor contrasted with “India shining.” This trip was not only eye-opening, but also left me desiring to see and do more. I learned so much about myself during a 10-day period that I immediately found myself desiring to travel back to India and to see more that this beautiful and extremely diverse country has to offer.
In the fall of my sophomore year, I attended an IIP information meeting, where I learned that not only was my dream of returning to India an option, but it was more possible than ever! That night, following the hour-long session, I spent countless hours searching through the CASI and IIP websites, former student blogs, and researching different organizations that I felt best suited my interests. After I wrapped up my last final in chilly December, I immediately hunkered down and began filling out the applications to two different CASI programs.
Flash forward to early March. I receive an email stating that the CASI program runners had reviewed my application and saw me fitting well into a program other than those that I initially interviewed for, and were reaching out to me to see if I would still be interested in going through the application process. I must admit that I was extremely hesitant. Would this new possible internship fit into what I hoped gain from the summer ahead, a summer in which I wanted to challenge myself in new ways amongst a new culture and unique group of individuals. The answer would be an unwavering yes. From the moment I looked at Naandi’s website and read their mission statement, I knew that interning for this organization would give me the foundation to further explore my interests both academically and personally.
When I received the congratulations email from CASI, I was beyond excited! In that moment, with a sentiment that still holds true today, I gained an overwhelming sense of excitement. My head started to swim with hundreds of ideas and images for what I could and would do starting in late May.
My trip preparations likely differed to some extent from other students participating in international internships. I am a member of the varsity volleyball team here at the University of Pennsylvania, and I suffered from and recently received surgery for a torn labrum in my shoulder. Thus, my biggest concern for this summer was that I will have access to the means necessary for me to continue strengthening and conditioning my shoulder so that come the fall season, I am back playing the sport that I love. To make proper accommodations, when peering inside my suitcase, one will find that some of the “supplies” that I brought involve a jump rope, agility ladder, and a weighted medicine ball.
As I sit and look at my packed up bags, I start to daydream about my long hot days in the beautiful Araku Valley region and cannot help but think that in less than twenty-four hours, these daydreams will be my new reality.