When asked what I want to be when I grow up, I often respond that I don’t know, but I want to help people, and this comes purely from how I see my purpose as a human on Earth. I hope to continue to grow as a person, a listener, a learner, and a conscious global citizen with the goal of helping others along the way. My experiences have taught me to think globally and act locally.
As a child, I would often people-watch. I would create stories in my head for each passerby and think about who they might be, where they were headed, and what they had seen in life. This activity reminded me that I am but a small piece in the world’s giant puzzle. Every human has their own set of stories, life experiences, and perspectives that inform them, and each person’s worldview is uniquely their own. Sure, we may share certain core or situational beliefs, but every person is a sum of their own everyday lives.
Expanding this concept globally, my interest in the international community started at a young age. My mother immigrated to the United States from India and my father’s family came from Ireland. I’ve felt strong connections with these countries and have had the opportunity to visit both. I feel a strong pull from across the ocean because of the way Irish and Indian cultures are integrated in my multicultural family.
I was compelled to study International Studies at the University of Richmond with a concentration in Politics and Governance because I longed to have a deeper understanding of the history and relationships between countries. I’ve always grappled with the questions of why people fight, why we have wars, and why greed is embedded into the structure of global operations. Imperialism itself is the root cause of many major issues that exist in the world today. I’m fascinated by historic evolution and how decisions made hundreds and thousands of years ago still shape the world we live in today, in both good and bad ways.
Both my Indian and Irish family have histories linked to the legacy of British colonialism. Through International Studies, I gained an academic understanding of history and relationships between countries and global conflicts. However, I didn’t have to look so far away to see the legacy of imperialism and the continued injustices that are perpetuated right here in Virginia. We can’t change where we’ve been, but we can determine where we’re going. That will not happen with a wave of a magic wand for the whole world, but instead requires individual and collective efforts in various localities.
During my junior year of college, I had the privilege of studying political science for a semester at Sciences Po in Paris. In those classes, I was seated next to classmates from around the world and we shared how our individual worldviews shaped our perspective of class material. In these settings, I loved getting a window into the lives of new friends whose experiences differ so greatly from my own purely based on geographic happenstance.
However, it took looking at the world with a broad lens to discover that a deeper understanding of the world right around me was what I needed.
The summer after my junior year, I interned with Bridging the Gap in Virginia, an environmental justice nonprofit based in Richmond, Virginia. This experience exposed me to Virginia politics and sociopolitical happenings. During this internship, I found myself immersed in a world as different from my own as the worlds of my international friends in Paris, yet only a few miles down the road from where I was living on the University of Richmond campus. From workshops at the Office of Community Wealth Building to trekking through the forest of rural Buckingham County to look for unmarked burial plots of enslaved families, to the Congressional Convening on Environmental Justice in Washington D.C., I saw Virginia in a new light by exposure to some of its most raw and glamorous parts.
Virginia is rich with history, but it’s historically rich with the same greed, violence, suffering, and discrimination that plague societies worldwide. However, despite its past, things are happening in Virginia. Progress is a noun, but it’s also a verb. Positive change continues to motivate myself and others to keep moving forward.
Now as the Communications Intern at the ACLU of Virginia, I see it as my responsibility to contribute to the efforts of the ACLU while being a sponge, soaking in every new experience, piece of information, and opportunity I encounter. I am committed to advocating for progress in Virginia while continuing to understand from whence it came. As I continue this internship and journey, the rationale of thinking globally and acting locally captures the spirit with which I apply my work: with humility, empathy, and an understanding of the bigger picture.