This summer, I had the opportunity to further develop two of my interests and come to better understand the interplay between the them—advocacy and politics. I spent the last seven weeks in Washington, D.C. interning on Capitol Hill through the Hindu American Foundation, an organization that advocates on behalf of Hindu Americans. Beyond getting to explore D.C. and meet so many amazing people, I also had so many incredible learning experiences that I know will influence the rest of my time at Swarthmore.
I spent nearly two months in the office of Rep. Ami Bera, a Democrat who represents the 7th District of California in the U.S. House of Representatives. I had so many amazing experiences in his office—getting to interact with constituents, having candid conversations with the Congressman about his experience in politics, and listening to Nancy Pelosi address a panel of unaccompanied minors who were testifying at a House hearing, to name a few. Additionally, I learned how important it is for young Indian Americans like myself to get involved in politics, be it local, state-level, or national. Congressman Bera is the only Indian-American in Congress, even though1 in 100 Americans are of Indian descent. While on the Hill, I attended a number of events that served to connect Asian-American interns like myself with professionals who are involved in politics, be it Asian-American Chiefs of Staff, or Asian-Americans at the State Department. Because we are so underrepresented in politics, I think that initiatives like these are important to get young Asian-Americans the opportunity to be more involved in the political realm.
Through my involvement with the Hindu American Foundation, I learned how to be a better advocate for a cause that’s very close to home. I was raised in a religious Hindu household, and am very proud of my religious heritage. This summer, I got an unparalleled opportunity to serve a community that I identify very strongly with by representing its interests to policy-making organizations and institutions. My third day in Washington, a delegation of us from HAF went to Capitol Hill to meet with nearly 80 different members of the Senate and House of Representatives. This day of advocacy gave me hands-on experience of what it’s like to present policy issues and advocate on behalf of HAF’s constituency. Walking into a small meeting room and directly presenting the plight of Hindus in Bangladesh to Rep. Joseph Crowley, Chair of the India Caucus, was definitely one of the most exhilarating (and terrifying) experiences of my life. My experiences with HAF had a profound effect on my experiences as an intern in the office of Rep. Bera, and vice versa. As I assisted in constituent outreach, wrote policy memos for the Congressman, and attended hearings and briefings, I began to get a more complete understanding of how policy is created, and what influences that policy.
This summer has reinforced a lot of the lessons I’ve learned already in my experiences as a Theta—the importance of advocating on behalf of causes I believe in, like the work that Court Appointed Special Advocates is doing, as well as advocating on behalf of my sisters. I am incredibly lucky to belong to a network of intelligent, driven, and compassionate women who I know will help to guide me and advocate on my behalf as I decide what career path to follow.