Cathy Nguyen, Class of 2022, is studying Human Biology. She volunteered at Aarti this past summer (2019).

Day 13 (07/02/19)

After the reflection last night with Ruhi and Pranavi, I had a lot of thinking to do. I couldn’t figure out why I was so upset and bothered by every little ethical issue that came up, and I also couldn’t decide where to place my anger (and if it is even right for me to be angry.) I even wonder what good my anger does. I realized I needed to address it and let things go that aren’t worth getting angry about in the grand scheme of Aarti’s message and big picture. That was my goal, because seeing constant hardships was slowly turning me into an angry and bitter person. I guess I’m just so sad at the world.

With this in mind, I had a really good day. All of my projects are going smoothly, and I am somehow managing the task of interviewing every student in the school for feedback and a general student database pretty well. It’s going to be a huge undertaking though.

I realized last night that I never allocated time for myself, especially in such a busy and new environment. I need to search around our guest house for the space to do so. I’m also wondering exactly how much authority the foreign interns have, and whether that is considered privilege; we’re allowed to interrupt important meetings and request for anything we need (this is literally what we’ve been told.)

Day 34 (07/23/19)

I write this as I am finally home at a reasonable time (4:50 PM haha). I think this week is when I finally yank myself out of the slump that often comes with staying in a foreign country for a long time.

As I and the other interns plan our trip to Bangalore and Hyderabad, I am beginning to feel the pressures of the time crunch. After this week of exams for the students at school and next week’s trip, I will have one and a half weeks left with these kids, I don’t think I can handle that. My heart feels extremely heavy. In this situation, I can’t effectively keep in touch with these kids in the middle of India. I have to start taking pictures so I can remember this place and cement it into my memory.

I’m split between wanting to stay here forever, excitement for a new school year, and coming home to my friends in Seattle. I’m in a constant tug-a-war. I can’t believe how quickly these kids got me to fall in love them and the beauty that is Aarti – they are more powerful, forces to be reckoned with, than they realize.

I am ending today’s journal entry with the desire and passion to bring all I have learned back home. I refuse to be affected by this experience and not actually change. I’ve learned so much about love, forgiveness, resilience, and the ethics of international service, that I can’t let this be temporary.

Day 56 (08/14/19)

Whoa. This is it. This is really the end. Time flew by faster than I could ever imagine. I thought breaks during school fly by, but it is nothing compared to this.

Over this trip, I learned how powerful love is. I always thought that saying so was so cliché, but I can see now that is absolutely true. I wrote in my letter to Sandhyamma that Aarti has given me hope, light, and peace. I saw just how resilient, kind, open, and compassionate people can be. I made connections with children, girls with experiences and wisdom beyond their years. They taught me more things than I could have ever taught them. I learned how powerful this connection can be, and I learned that little things push the needle forward little by little, even if I felt like I didn’t do enough. I saw the power of giving someone a second chance, the right chance. I got to see an army of powerful women lead an institution for the very first time.

It was so hard for me to say goodbye because it was like saying goodbye to family. I realize deep in my heart that unless I somehow get the funds, I may never be able to see these kids again. I won’t be able to watch them grow or hear their stories. Or whatever nonsense they have to say.

I cried, a lot, because I’m simply and utterly just going to miss this. It was astounding to me that the girls were comforting me, telling me not to cry. I know they’re used to this, and I wish we all didn’t have to leave them eventually. That’s the worst part.

In these past two months, these people have given me so much, and I have never been so grateful and humbled by an experience.

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