Post WLP 2021: A Revealing Summer
Coming into this summer, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. WLP framed itself as a leadership pipeline for South Asian American students, bridging the opportunity gap and helping young scholars reach their fullest potential. I was curious to see this in practice, especially under the heavy auspices of the pandemic.
What I found was an uplifting and supportive community. The cohort quickly bonded over our shared intellectual pursuits, common passion for public service, diverse life experiences, and varied goals for the future. We were welcomed into the broader WLP family too, meeting the accomplished alumni on the board and learning how they were able to make their marks as young South Asian Americans. This was a callback to one of the reasons I initially chose to apply to WLP: The mere fact that the board exclusively consists of program alumni underscores WLP’s commitment to ‘paying it forward.’ Throughout the program, there was the constant expectation that, as soon-to-be WLP alumni ourselves, we were expected to pay it forward too, which also served as an important reminder of the doors now open for us.
The summer also served as an interesting exercise in identity exploration. I had never participated in an explicitly South Asian American program before, and it was really meaningful to meet such a diverse set of people from the same subcontinent and work on a leadership project that celebrated that diversity. It helped me parse through my narrower and broader heritages and contextualize all that is within the South Asian American community. It was reassuring that my fellow scholars were going through a similar journey, and it was also helpful that we could probe people for insights on that journey. In all programming regardless of topic, someone from the cohort would always ask the guest speakers about being South Asian American in their field, when issues of identity come up, and how their experiences have shaped their professional endeavors.
The identity exercise spilled over into my internship as well. Interning for Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, one of the most prominent South Asian Americans in Congress, was a valuable experience that helped me extend identity discussions from my personal life to my professional life; it also helped me explore and stimulate my passion for public service beyond simply interning in a different part of the field. Walking freely around the United States Capitol Complex helped me appreciate the scale of the work those in public service do every day. It takes a lot of work by a lot of people to keep our country running, and those who do it are often nameless and faceless. The names and faces I did see included the monuments within the Capitol to the leaders who set everything in motion so long ago. There’s something awfully humbling about being the only person in the Capitol Rotunda, surrounded by massive paintings you recognize from your middle school history textbooks.
Ultimately, I’ll look back at this summer as a revealing one. Both personally and professionally, I feel more calm in my skin and ready to make an impact. The weeks since the program ended have been a time of individual reflection and reflection with the other scholars, people I now consider extremely close friends. We’re barely removed from the program, yet we all already feel sharp pangs of nostalgia for our summer of development and warmth. As we embark on separate journeys, it’s comforting to know that we’ll have a home base to return to in WLP.