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WLP 2022 Week 5: Reaffirming Our Belonging

Updated: Sep 8, 2022

This summer, I have spent time pondering my identity as a South Asian American woman working and studying in predominantly white spaces. In the past, I’ve struggled with feelings of belonging in these spaces and sharing my authentic story with others. This summer has been a formative period where I have been granted the opportunity to explore my own identity within a cohort of other South Asian Americans experiencing similar challenges.

As an intern with the House Committee on Homeland Security, I’ve been thrust into the fast-paced environment of a Hill office. Throughout my internship, I have found myself engaging in exciting policy work and professional development projects. This week, I gave a presentation to Committee staff on three legislation memos I drafted. Engaging in these projects has allowed me to learn how to better advocate for my work and the policy agendas I am most passionate about.

In front of the Capitol!

Our first event this week was an ice cream social with South Asian Hill staffers. This event allowed WLP scholars to meet South Asians working at all levels in offices across the House and Senate. Personally, it was an amazing opportunity to connect with South Asian Congressional staffers, as I felt a strong sense of community within my own workplace. I left our conversations feeling more affirmed about my place on the Hill.

South Asian Hill staffers Ice Cream Social.

Later in the week, the scholars opened up about our identities in a conversation with Neha Sampat, founder and CEO of BelongLab which focuses on establishing belonging in her client’s organization. Neha discussed the importance of building diversity in organizations and how to overcome imposter syndrome. In our conversation, we each shared our experiences growing up across the United States. A common thread was battling both implicit and explicit bias in social, professional, and academic spaces. We ended our time together reaffirming our commitment to ourselves and the skills we already possess. I left the session feeling excited about my current accomplishments and abilities while also acknowledging the privileged position I hold to uplift others.

Concluding our time with Neha Sampat.

Our conversation with Neha flowed into our final event of the week, a personal narrative workshop with Ashwin Warrior. Ashwin opened our conversation by introducing us to the concept of “the story of self.” We spent time crafting our own personal narratives and sharing them with each other. Not only did we gain the ability to communicate our personal stories, we grew closer as a class by learning more about each other’s individual passions.

After our personal narrative workshop with Ashwin.

Growing up in predominantly white spaces and attending PWIs has often left me feeling isolated from my own South Asian American identity. This summer, and this week especially, has allowed me to reconnect with these missing pieces of myself, advocate for my own belonging, and feel more confident sharing my unique narrative with others.


Rhea Chandran


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