“It was so much more than ‘great'”

8 days ago, I finally arrived in the U.S.

5 days ago, I arrived on Penn’s campus; and in that time of a little over a week, I was bombarded with responsibilities of academics, appointments, and work. As I hastily met with my friends who were not already consumed by their own responsibilities, I was consistently met with the question of, “How was India?”

Talk about a loaded question.

“It was great!”

“It was hot! Lol.”

“It was really reeeally great!”

I feel guilty for answering this question in such meaningless words, but it always catches me off guard. You would think that after the summer, I would have thought of a more eloquent answer.

How can I describe my experience in India for 11 weeks in one word? Heck, I can’t even describe it in 10. My own internship that is limited to the hospital boundaries has many facets that I cannot convey in a single passing answer, let alone my own individual through traveling and interactions. Even though I have had the entire summer and 8 days in the U.S to reflect on my time in India, I have not been able to do so. My description of India is defined by the memories through my own experiences; and instead of replying with a one-worded answer, I would love to have time to tell everyone more.

I would love to tell them about Aravind, the incredibly inspiring hospital system that is able to offer subsidized and free services to any patient.

I would love to tell them of the conversations I had with the doctors there, how passionate they are about their work and the precision that they perform surgery.

I would love to tell them of my experience of having an intern status in this different environment, how I learned to advocate for myself and how this internship experience has affected my perspective of myself and my future.

I would love to tell them of my many opportunities to travel throughout the country like to Bangalore, Kodaikanal, Kerala, New Delhi, Agra, and so many more.

I would love to tell them of my first overnight bus ride.

Even as I am reflecting on my own experiences in India, I become overwhelmed with the memories, making it hard to pinpoint exactly how I feel. There is much more of India that I can learn about and explore, so it is unjust for me to answer the question of “How was India?” — I can only describe my own experience of what I had done there. I am very thankful for the opportunity that CASI and the Aravind Eye Hospital have given me this summer. My internship was not limited to the boundaries of the hospital but was thankfully allowed to extend to other parts of the country. The combination of these two opportunities in India have allowed me to learn more about a country that I was unfamiliar with and also expand my own perspectives on what I wanted from myself and others. I will always treasure the memories I have made and the lessons I have learned. Hopefully, this was not the last time I will be in India, whether it be for traveling or academics because I would love to pick up where I left off (in Bodhgaya). Being in India wasn’t only great, it wasn’t only incredible or only inspiring, it was so much more than that.

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About Quan Quan

Upcoming junior at the University of Pennsylvania studying Biological Basis of Behavior while struggling to stay on the premed track. Interning at Aravind Eye Hospital for the summer of 2017 in Puducherry, Tamil Nadu.