As I’m sitting at the airport on my way back to Michigan, I’m frantically looking through my notes to see what were the most important moments throughout my summer. It’s not that it’s difficult to find important moments, but rather I learned so much that it’s hard to prioritize which ones were the most impactful. I grew both professionally and personally in so many different ways as I pondered what a young girl from Wayne could really accomplish within eight weeks.
I sold myself short before I started the summer. I thought that I would come out of this summer more confused than before. Instead, I made incredible bonds with my WLP cohort, mentors, and speakers. I curated two thoughtful deliverables for the Office of HIV/AIDS in the Bureau of Global Health. I also learned how to navigate a brand new city which took courage and self-compassion. Instead of having a blurred image of what my next steps would be in my college career, I now have a more focused path. This would not have been made possible without some of the events and moments:
During WLP Week 6, we met Parag Mehta and Vaibhav Jain who shared their respective career paths, but also shared their sentiment on the fight to legalize gay marriage in India and LGBTQIA rights in America. Vaibhav shared the importance of grassroots organizing, especially within the South Asian community. Vaibhav reignited my passion for local politics and how change starts within your own home community. Parag emphasized the importance of communication and how to make a strong message stick by sharing his idea of getting Elmo vaccinated on television, so children could convince their parents to also get vaccinated. This session showcased the creativity that one can leverage to have an impact.
Ronnie Chatterji provided insight that I had never heard before. He said that it’s a common practice amongst undergraduates to separate the public and private sectors into two distinct buckets and then decide which one of those buckets you want to be involved in. Rather, choose the issue areas that you are passionate about and see what places are addressing those issues most effectively. I learned that I can have agency and choice in the career I want to pursue, something I never even considered.
Our last night as a cohort was one to remember. All ten of us spent the night at the infamously known Toppletown, where we celebrated two of our cohort members’ birthdays. This is special to me because towards the end of the night, we went around the room and each shared one memory we had with each other. There were laughs, tears, and screams all shared together. We danced our hearts out to Bollywood music, played card games, and all stressfully packed in the morning to catch flights and trains. The lesson I learned? There is so much more to life than just your work. It’s okay to take the time to be human sometimes and enjoy the company around you. Not everything has to be “go, go, go.”
My wisdom from this summer to the rest of the world is to take the chance. Even if you’re afraid of what you’ll learn or not learn, say yes. Because saying yes to this summer changed my perspective on public service which will now undoubtedly change the trajectory of my career.