This fellowship experience is personally significant to me in several ways. First and foremost, I hope this fellowship will challenge me to think and act outside of my comfort zone and as a result force me to broaden my perspective of the world. One thing I hope to gain is an appreciation for different standards of living and different ways of life. I first became acutely aware of the fact that the standard of living I experienced growing up was vastly different from those in other parts of the world when I visited India as a 6-year-old. Nonetheless, my exposure to different ways of living on that occasion and during later trips to India was limited. I hope that this 10 month immersion will expand upon my past experiences and increase my appreciation for the varied circumstances in which people live.
I want to learn to not only recognize differences, however, but to also appreciate these differences. There is a tendency for people from the Global North to victimize people from countries in the Global South and to fail to recognize their agency. It is unsettling to me that I am guilty of this and I find it problematic both in terms of who I want to be as a person and the perspective I’d like to bring to my professional life. In other words, while I want to be cognizant of the differences between life in India and life in the United States, I do not want these differences to lead me to seeing myself as superior and my ideas as more valuable, even if I find some of the differences unsettling. It is important to me that I am able to recognize and incorporate into my own worldview the varied and valuable ideas of people from other parts of the world and live a richer life because of it.
I expect that this program will be challenging for me in many ways, both personally and professionally, and will require me to exhibit resilience in the face of various circumstances. I am determined to become a more resilient person and hope that the challenges this fellowship brings will sharpen my problem-solving skills, increase my confidence, and make me a more flexible person. I expect that the skills I develop during my fellowship year will help me throughout my life.
Finally, the chance to spend 10 months immersed in an Indian community gives me the opportunity to reconnect with my roots. I have always believed that in order to be a fully empowered individual, a complete understanding of oneself is essential. I have always had a fascination with other cultures and have had the chance to travel to other parts of the world but have not had the chance to spend an extended period of time in India until now. My family traces their roots to Tamil Nadu, where I have been placed for my fellowship year, and I expect that being immersed in Tamil culture for a year will be immensely rewarding. I hope to leave India 10 months from now a more empowered individual, ready to share what I have learned and able to empower others.