Reflections and Ruminations

With my summer in India now behind me, I’m settling back into life at Penn. It feels almost like I never left, or that India was a long long time ago, yet on some days, I feel as if I was back there yesterday – drinking chai on the streets of Delhi, taking a boat ride in the evening breeze around the Ganges River in Varanasi, and visiting the Golden Temple at night, sensing the peace amongst the crowd around me.

Although there were parts of the internship and India experience that weren’t foreign to me – I speak Hindi and have been to Delhi and other parts of India throughout my childhood – I experienced many new things this summer and grew a lot. Living on the other side of the world from home, navigating a new work environment, and traveling to amazing new places on our own were things that I was initially nervous about. Am I dressed appropriately for the weather? How do I make sure I don’t get lost or go somewhere I shouldn’t? Am I doing what my mentors want from me? These were some of the looming concerns I had both before and during the summer.

I’m glad to say that I was able to navigate each of these issues well, and others. I figured out how to dress depending on where I was going in order to protect my skin but keep cool, I made sure I always had Google Maps or was not alone if I was going somewhere new, and I was able to communicate well with my mentors and colleagues to complete my projects on time and well. More than anything, this summer showed me that stepping out of my usual environment and comfort zone, which is really easy to do at home and in the Penn bubble, is something that I am definitely capable of and actually enjoy doing. The second-week concern about traveling turned into an excitement about each weekend trip to a different part of India, the initial difficulty in choosing what to wear morphed into a love of wearing Indian or Indian-inspired clothes, and the questions about my projects and work soon made me comfortable to ask for direction from my mentors and communicate with them efficiently.

So, this summer surpassed my expectations in a lot of ways. I left India amazed at the fact that I got to explore so many diverse places, interact with so many kinds of people, and explore a field that I really wanted to know more about. Although I’m settled back into life at Penn, every once in a while, I’ll see someone or something that will remind me of those 10 weeks, and once again I’m brought back to the amazing adventures and important lessons I had the opportunity to experience. There are too many memories to recount, so I’ll insert some pictures that can speak for themselves.

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About Hareena Kaur

Class of 2020, majoring in Biological Basis of Behavior and minoring in Health Care Management. Intern at Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), Gurgaon, India, in summer 2018.