Washington D.C. possesses a unique ambience unlike any other city — one that we nine South Asian students are fortunate to experience this summer through WLP. Some of us spent the past five weeks navigating through the intricacies of a federal agency, while others were experiencing the reality of daily life on Capitol Hill. In between interning during the day and attending networking events at night, we also dedicate time to our WLP Twitter campaign. Our movement focuses on breaking traditional stereotypes by cultivating a conversation around the importance of South Asian identities. We are happy to see our project quickly gaining momentum through the social media world and appreciate the time prominent community leaders have spent in support of our #SouthAsianAnd campaign. Piecing together the personal stories of South Asian entrepreneurs, activists, and other political figures we have met, we are able to see a mosaic of diverse identities forming before us and envision our own aspirations within this collage.
With a lighter schedule this week, many of us spent extra time networking with professionals within our internship departments. At the Department of Labor, Mehul and I had the opportunity to sit down with Pronita Gupta, Deputy Director of the Women’s Bureau. In addition to explaining the historical transformation of women’s involvement in the labor force, Gupta described some major initiatives the Women’s Bureau was currently working on, such as paid family leave and apprenticeship opportunities for women interested in non-traditional career paths. It was inspiring to hear about Gupta’s passion in advocating for female and minority labor rights, causes she has dedicated her career too.
Our WLP class took a deep dive into the foreign policy arena on Wednesday, where we had the pleasure of meeting with three experts in US-India relations: Sita Sonty, Senior Advisor for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia at the Bureau of Political Military Affairs, U.S. Department of State. Ronak Desai, Democratic Counsel of the Select Committee on Benghazi, and Prem Trivedi, a Counselor at the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. In a thought-provoking discussion, we debated the potential impact of the Iran-nuclear deal on US-India relations. Learning how the US’s relationship with India has transformed from military to economic-based, we pondered potential collaborative efforts between these two powerful democracies that several of us had familial connection too. The discussion then moved to the challenges the U.S. has faced with Pakistan, in terms of balancing both military and civilian leaders. When questioned about their career paths, I was intrigued by Sita’s journey of transitioning from a professional Bharatanatyam dancer to a powerful foreign policy figure. The dialogue left us awestruck by the extensive knowledge and skills all three foreign policy experts had to offer.
Our week ended with a fun potluck dinner at Mehul’s apartment, where we spent the evening devouring tasty taquitos and turkey burgers. As we entertained ourselves by telling internship stories, sharing our never-ending D.C. bucket lists, and taking silly photos, I thought about how our WLP class was no longer just a group of South Asian students. Somewhere magically within the mix of Ali’s risk-taking, Mehul’s innovativeness, Shikha’s boldness , Radhe’s coordination, Jackson’s optimism, Tina’s curiosity, Rahi’s collectiveness, Shuchi’s diligence, and my expressiveness, we had become family.
Department of Labor- Office of Public Affairs
The University of Michigan