Each fall, the Center for South Asian Studies’ (CSAS) Summer in South Asia (SiSA) fellowship program culminates in a public symposium where our fellows come together and share a presentation on their experiences in India. This opportunity to discuss their research findings or volunteer efforts also provides them a venue to reflect upon their experiences and how they have impacted them personally and academically.
In the fall of 2023, in late October, the symposium was significant as the fellowship program had been on hiatus due to COVID-19.
In the summer of 2023, five students visited various parts of India. Mariya Jahan, Simrun Bose, Aiden Robinson, and Mackenzie Woock shared presentations detailing their internships to a standing-room-only crowd, including SiSA’s anonymous donor.
Jahan, a sophomore at the time, is studying political science and international political economy with a minor in UX Design. Though Jahan’s heritage is Bangladeshi, she had never visited India, and she doesn’t speak Hindi.
“I completed an internship at Dasra researching educational inequities for the Bottom of the Pyramid in Bombay,” shared Jahan. “I have so much gratitude and appreciation for this fellowship and being provided this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Woock, also a sophomore at the time, is pursuing a major in neuroscience.
“For as long as I can remember, I have held a deep passion for women’s health,” said Woock. “I wanted my time in India to be centralized on this, hoping to gain global perspectives to deepen my understanding of the field and assist other women in learning about their bodies.
“I worked with Action Research and Training for Health (ARTH), an organization that mirrored my drive for researching and improving upon women’s health issues through a public health lens. This fantastic organization explores where clinical practice meets social factors that impact accessibility and quality of women’s health care in the tribal village areas of southern Rajasthan.”
Robinson is majoring in biopsychology, cognition, and neuroscience on the premed track with career aspirations of becoming a forensic psychiatrist.
“I know this is a trip I will remember for the rest of my life,” added Robinson. “I have stories from this experience that I can tell my grandchildren's children. I would highly recommend this experience to any other students who may be interested in visiting a beautiful country rich in culture and charm.”
Bose, a junior majoring in international studies (global environment and health) with a minor in physics, spent her summer in Mysore with the Organisation for the Development of People (ODP), engaging with their women’s education and environmental development programs.
“My 6-week internship was a powerful look into the goals, methods, and challenges of a community development-based group that truly puts community members at the forefront of decision-making,” said Bose. “While my focus was on the organization's environment programs (which include organic agriculture, compost, alternative energy sources, watershed development), primarily directed at small farmers in the Mysore area, I was exposed to, and incredibly impressed by, the vast range of issues ODP addresses.”
Kuzee, who could not join the symposium, worked with Navdanya, an Indian-based non-governmental organization that promotes biodiversity conservation, organic farming, the rights of farmers, and the process of seed saving while she was in India.
SiSA Fellows receive $4,500 to learn through an unpaid internship or conduct independent research projects in India over the summer months. This amount is sufficient to cover all costs of traveling to India, living there, and traveling after the internship or research period. The minimum required time in India is four weeks, but students can stay up to four months. Undergraduate students from any academic discipline are eligible. No familiarity with an Indian language, prior research, or professional experience is required.
SiSA Fellows have focused on various topics related to their academic degrees and areas of personal interest. Past SiSA Fellows have built solar panels with community members in a rural area, worked on a Bollywood movie set, and served in a rural healthcare NGO. Participating in this fellowship provides students with invaluable international experiences that are transformative and leave a lasting personal, academic, and professional impact on their lives.