About Natalie Andrasko

Natalie is a junior with a major in International Studies and minors in Program in the Environment and Asian Languages and Cultures. Natalie is passionate about the intersection between international development and sustainability, and will be spending two months interning at Frontier Markets in Jaipur, Rajasthan. The Indian government has recently made a massive push towards solar energy as India's energy demand grows, but the rural electrification rate remains much lower than in urban areas. Frontier Markets addresses this problem by partnering with local entrepreneurs and training rural women to sell their solar products to other women, in a program called Solar Sahelis. Natalie will be researching the marketing tactics Frontier Markets uses to convince these women to sell and use their products, and the methods they use to teach them about the environmental and health consequences of using coal. She hopes to bring everything she learns from her time in India to her future career in global health and international development.

Reflections on SISA, growth, and traveling solo

Life is back to normal now in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and as I’m going through the motions of completing mundane tasks like moving into my new house and going back to school shopping, I’ve found myself reflecting a lot on my time in India.

I talked a lot in my last blog post about my memories from India, and how I think of my time in India as just a collection of memories, rather than a story I can easily tell.

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Memories are a funny thing— I have memories that are seemingly so insignificant from my childhood that have stuck with me for 15 years. I wonder, as I’m writing this on my 21st birthday, what memories from India I’ll still have 21 years from now. Even more importantly, I’ve found myself wondering how those memories will shape the person I am 21 years from now.

I’ve already noticed small changes in the person I am since I’ve returned. I appreciate small things about my home in the US now— the feeling of AC, a cold shower, and the organized nature of traffic. But Im also more aware of the things I miss about India, and how different my life might have been if I was born somewhere else. I think I’m more aware of the privileges I was afforded being dealt a lucky hand in where I was born and the family I was born into, and I don’t think I take those privileges as much for granted anymore.

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Besides the small changes, I’m curious to see how this experience impacts me in deeper ways, in the the way I live my life, and the way I travel and see the world in the future.

When I embarked on this fellowship, I wanted to go in with as few plans as I could and figure everything out as I went along. The only goal I set for myself was to do as much of it alone as possible, and try to do this fellowship essentially completely solo. I’ve found that for me, being pushed out of my comfort zone has led me to experience periods of intense personal growth in my life, and I set out to try to make India another personal growth experience.

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Traveling alone certainly pushed me out of my comfort zone, and was exceptionally difficult at times— like when a bus driver lied to me, telling me I was in central Delhi and dropped me off on the side of the highway at 1am, 50 miles from where he said I was. Or when I got scammed out of $100 at a train station, and didn’t have anyone there with me to figure out my next move with. But those setbacks were all part of the adventure, and I wouldn't be the same person or had the same experience if I didn’t have those setbacks.

Traveling solo for 10 weeks was one of the most empowering experiences of my life, and I hope that in 20 years, I’m continuing to seek out experiences that challenge and empower me. My fellowship renewed my sense of adventure and curiosity, reaffirmed my interest in devoting my life to protecting the environment, and taught me that challenge and being uncomfortable can lead to the best things in life.

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As I return to campus and start to imagine what my post-grad life might look like, I hope that India will have taught me to be unafraid of the unknown and being thrust into unfamiliar situations alone. I hope that I return to my classes with a renewed excitement for learning, now that I have a more focused career path ahead of me. And I hope that wherever life takes me throughout this next year and after graduation, I always remember my time in India as one of the greatest adventures of my life.

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Moments in time

When I think back on my time in India, I don’t see it as a chronological story I can easily tell to my friends. I see it as a tapestry of moments, all woven together that created a truly indescribable experience. There are certain moments, both good and bad, that I know will stick with me forever, and I reflect back on my time in India more as a list of these moments, rather than a story I could articulately write down.

Visiting a 1000 year old monastery in the village of Tabo

Visiting a 1000 year old monastery in the village of Tabo

Friends ask me excitedly “How was India?! Your Instagrams looked amazing!” and I honestly have no idea what to say. How do I sum up 10 weeks into a cliche statement about how it changed my life? I can’t, unless my friend has five hours to listen to me process my feelings about my two and a half months in India.

India was beautiful

Do I tell my friends about the once in a lifetime beautiful views of the Himalayas I saw backpacking through Spiti Valley, or viewing the Sheesh Mahal (Hall of Mirrors) in Amer Fort? Or do I tell them about the beauty I saw every day— in the smile of the sweet old man I bought chai from every day, or in the carefree happiness of children playing cricket at sunset in Jaipur’s central park?

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Sheesh Mahal, Amer Fort

Sheesh Mahal, Amer Fort

India was lonely

Do I tell my friends about that time my train was delayed six hours and I was stranded until 3am at the dark Agra train station alone, and how it was genuinely one of the loneliest and most frightening moments of my life? Or do I instead tell them about how a group of women then pulled me aside and let me sit with them all night, braiding my hair and giving me the only food they brought for themselves? No matter which version I tell, nobody will understand how that experience moved me.

India was magical

Do I tell my friends about how in my loneliest moment of my trip, I bought a necklace with the Hindu goddess Kali engraved on it, in the hopes that this powerful warrior woman would protect me on my solo trip— only to meet my actual new best friend, coincidentally named Callie, the very next week? Both Callie and I agree it was destiny-- we were supposed to meet each other at that very moment.

Callie and I backpacking through Spiti Valley

Callie and I backpacking through Spiti Valley

Or do I tell them about the guru I met in Rishikesh, who approached me in a crowded marketplace to give me unsolicited life advice, only to disappear into the crowd— and then stumble across me again days later. I never knew how accurate or necessary that advice was until two weeks later, when I felt his words fall into a place in my life that was eerily accurate. It was magic, destiny, fate, whatever you call it— but I know for certain India is the most spiritual and magical place I’ve ever been.

Rishikesh

Rishikesh

India was eye opening

Do I tell my friends about the cafe I ate lunch at that was run entirely by acid attack survivors, their flesh burnt off their face at the hands of hateful people? Or when I was backpacking in Spiti Valley and met Nadia, a girl my age who opened up to me about how her best friend was murdered by her own family over religious differences? How do I talk about these experiences that I feel like I need to discuss and process, but discuss them in a way that is true to what I believe is the incredible culture of India, without being offensive or ethnocentric?

India was inspiring

Do I tell my friends about Frontier Markets, the incredible NGO I interned for that is changing millions of lives by providing clean energy access to the poorest people in Rajasthan? Movies like An Inconvenient Sequel portrayed India as a country completely unwilling to adapt to solar energy, but I was inspired daily by the companies and people I got to interact with that were committed to protecting the environment and climate for all.

India was complicated

Or maybe I just need to accept that my experience in India is not one that needs to be told to that person I run into on the street, or the whole class when my professors inevitably ask how we spent our summers. Maybe my experience in India is something that is just mine, something that I should accept is maybe reserved for my journals and my closest friends and family members that have hours to listen.

The love between mother and child, Pushkar.

The love between mother and child, Pushkar.

For now, I’m committed to the “It was amazing but really hard to describe quickly! How was your summer?” response, but I know that my time there was so much more meaningful and complicated than that. India was beautiful, lonely, magical, eye opening, inspiring, and complicated— all at once, but I wouldn’t take back anything about my experience if I could. I will forever carry with me these snapshots in time, these memories that are mine and only mine, from my 2 1/2 months solo, and I couldn’t be more grateful to live my life with these memories that have changed me and my outlook on life.

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Contrast

I spent all day Saturday in a dream-like state, wandering through the paradise that is Udaipur, Rajasthan, a city of white marble built on the sparkling Lake Pichola. I woke up to watch the sun rise from my hostel rooftop, watching boats lazily drift by. I then ate breakfast at the famed Ambrai restaurant, opposite Taj Lake Palace, a summer home for royalty that is now converted into one of the most famous and luxurious hotels in India. I spent my day getting lost in little alleys and side streets, eating and drinking chai on rooftop restaurants overlooking the ghats. 

DSC_0283 Sunday was spent with new friends from the hostel, driving our rented motorcycles all through Udaipur, ending up at Lake Badi, where we went swimming for hours under the bluest sky and most beautiful mountain range backdrop I'd ever seen. Udaipur was the paradise vacation I needed from the chaos of living in the big, colorful, and chaotic city of Jaipur. This weekend refreshed me and gave me a glimpse of the peaceful side of India that I hadn’t had the chance to see yet. IMG_6009 Inspired by my weekend in Udaipur, I decided to take a long weekend and spend Monday visiting Marianne in New Delhi. 14 hours later, I got off my sleeper bus and arrived in Delhi, and all the peaceful tranquility and bliss I had been happily enjoying in Udaipur was instantly gone. Delhi is like Jaipur and New York City and Tokyo combined in one, but with even more smells and noise and overwhelming but fascinating chaos. In two days, I had gone from lounging lakeside in a city known for its romance and beauty to volunteering with Marianne in the slums in the capital of India, known for its rawness and chaos.
sunset view from my hostel rooftop in Udaipur

sunset view from my hostel rooftop in Udaipur

These two cities are like night and day; they could not possibly be more different. It was hard to believe that these two cities were even in the same country. I felt confident and self-assured in Udaipur with my newfound friends and the welcoming nature of the city and people. But from the moment I arrived in Delhi, I felt more like a foreigner than I’ve felt in my last five weeks in Jaipur. I asked Marianne to show me “the real Delhi,” which I definitely got a taste for in Chandni Chowk. I would have felt so lost without Marianne, and felt like I was clinging to her side trying not to get run over by an erratic tuktuk driver the whole time. It gave me hope hearing how she once also felt this way, the overwhelming “Oh my god what am I doing here am I going to die can I go back to Udaipur now” feeling that I felt the entire time in Chandni Chowk.

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Chandni Chowk

Chandni Chowk, Delhi

The difference in atmosphere, architecture, size, and everything else between Udaipur and Delhi got me thinking about how much contrast I have in my own daily life here in Jaipur. I work in a modern three story office complex under a United States-raised but of Indian heritage CEO. The neighborhood the office is in is shared by the Chief Minister’s private home, with beautiful mansions and office buildings flanking ours. But to get to this luxe area of Jaipur, everyday I walk past the same row of shacks set up on the street, a home for the two or three families that live on the busy road, spending every day begging for money or selling balloons and toys.

Jaipur itself feels like it is full of so many contrasting beliefs and ideals. It’s a huge, modern city, with shopping complexes, movie theaters, and trendy cafes on every block that exclusively play underground indie music, and where you can find acai bowls and avocado toast on the same page of the menu as traditional Rajasthani thalis. But it’s also very traditional in so many ways, which I’m still learning more about every day. There are the obvious signs of traditional Rajasthani culture everywhere, like the ruins and forts scattered throughout the city, and the small temples I stumble upon everyday. People ride in camel-drawn carts throughout the old city and through the classically colorful Jaipur markets, but passing banners advertising the newest startup or Hollywood movie, things that give it the illusion of being modern. It’s a fascinating mix of old and new, tradition and change— a dynamic that I’ve seen all throughout my time in India.

A Hindu priest in crocs: a classic example of the mixing between old and new

A Hindu priest in crocs: a classic example of the mixing between old and new

I was expecting some of this contrast, having heard about India’s huge disparity in wealth, where some of the richest people in the world can live just blocks away from the slums. This contrast is talked about in pretty much every travel blog or book about India, but it’s a whole different matter actually seeing it firsthand. As my internship draws to a close in the next few weeks, I'm beginning to plan my three weeks of travel. I'm drawn to the peace and spirituality of cities like Udaipur, but my three days in three unique cities also showed me how much India has to offer. I'm planning on making my way up north in those three weeks, ending in Rishikesh and Dharamshala to experience more of the peaceful side of India I'm intrigued by, but stopping along the way in various cities to break up my experience and allow me to see as many different sides of India as possible. Those three days were a whirlwind experience, but showed me the incredible diversity and contrast India has to offer; something I hope to continue experiencing in my last month.

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The high[light] of my fellowship

Over 10 million people in Rajasthan, India have little or no access to electricity, with 22% of these households turning to kerosene to bring light into their homes. Women and children are the most severely affected by the side effects of kerosene, an unsafe, unsustainable, and polluting fuel, but they lack the capital to purchase cleaner forms of energy. Clean energy isn’t just necessary for climate change mitigation, but clean energy is also necessary for human development as well, especially for women, children, and low-income rural people-- those who often do not have the voice to advocate for themselves. Light brings people together; it increases safety for women, it increases productivity in work, and provides children more time to study. It is essential, but far too many people around the world live in darkness. My interest in both environmental protection and women’s empowerment initially led me to my internship at Frontier Markets, a renewable energy NGO that provides inexpensive solar technologies to rural villagers across Rajasthan. But the program that hooked me was Frontier Markets’ “Solar Sahelis” (Solar Friends) program, which has trained 250 rural uneducated women in solar value chain, marketing, communication, and sales skills, and then employ them as saleswoman for their renewable energy products. Most Sahelis earn an average of $35 a month selling solar products part-time, and they invest 90% of their income back into their families, creating a ripple effect of improved livelihoods and empowerment. DSC_1623 I had the opportunity to go to Dholpur, Rajasthan on a 3-day field visit to interview ten Solar Sahelis to create case studies on them to be used for grant proposals, as well as to conduct some of my own fellowship research. Hearing these incredibly strong, inspiring, and successful women’s stories first-hand was an unforgettable experience, and I’m honored that they let me into their lives for these three days. In every interview, they spoke of how their lives have been transformed by being a Solar Saheli, with many saying they used to be afraid to leave their homes, and would not be allowed to speak with elders or other members of their community. Now, everyone in their village calls them by their name, comes to them for assistance with their solar products, and respects them and their work as a Saheli. Many of them demonstrated this transformation by covering their face with their sari veil, and then uncovering it to show how their newfound confidence has allowed them to come out of their shells and carry themselves with pride wherever they go, knowing they have made a valuable contribution to society and their families.
“There are so many changes in my life, I no longer fear going anywhere. Wherever I am called, I can go there. After going outside my home, I got good opportunities. So after seeing all these things, my family doesn’t stop me anymore and initially they used to stop me. Now they don’t stop me. Why? Because everyone in society knows what I’m doing, because of this I can talk to anyone, I even got to meet the chief minister. After meeting the chief minister I realized that I was a housewife who never went outside my own home. I didn’t know anyone, but now I am touching the sky.”

“There are so many changes in my life, I no longer fear going anywhere. Wherever I am called, I can go there. After going outside my home, I got good opportunities. So after seeing all these things, my family doesn’t stop me anymore and initially they used to stop me. Now they don’t stop me. Why? Because everyone in society knows what I’m doing, because of this I can talk to anyone, I even got to meet the chief minister. After meeting the chief minister I realized that I was a housewife who never went outside my own home. I didn’t know anyone, but now I am touching the sky.”

Besides documenting Saheli's stories, part of my interview was also focused on determining their baseline environmental background knowledge on climate change and renewable energy, in the hopes I could find some information that could help Frontier Markets pitch the concept of climate change in a way that is more relevant to their lives, since Frontier Markets has been unable to do this thus far. For my research question for this fellowship, I’m  interested in exploring what the best ways are to market clean energy products and the concept of climate change to rural people in Rajasthan, specifically women, in a way that fits all their needs and priorities. Main take aways: 1). While 10/10 of the Solar Sahelis had not heard the term “climate change,” I was so impressed by how knowledgeable they were and how in touch they were with their land. The district is a mostly agricultural society, so when I rephrased the question on climate change to be “Have you noticed changes in seasonality or temperature over the last ten years,” all of them unanimously said yes, it is getting much hotter.
“There is so much heat now compared to before, rainfall has also reduced compared to earlier years when it would rain more.”

“There is so much heat now compared to before, rainfall has also reduced compared to earlier years when it would rain more.”

2). One major effect of climate change on India and around the world will be the spread of infectious, mosquito-borne diseases, due to the rising temperatures. One of the most fascinating parts of my research was how on several occasions, Sahelis would transition on their own, unprompted, from talking about rising temperatures to how outbreaks of dengue fever and other diseases have accompanied the heat, showing a sophisticated knowledge of how the environment and climate change can impact their own health.
“Yes, temperature has increased. Many kinds of diseases have started. Earlier, people didn’t used to know about diseases like dengue, but in the last 2 or 3 years, many diseases like dengue are happening.”

“Yes, temperature has increased. Many kinds of diseases have started. Earlier, people didn’t used to know about diseases like dengue, but in the last 2 or 3 years, many diseases like dengue are happening.”

3). Climate change is predicted to make dry areas even drier, having disastrous effects on agriculture in the already arid Rajasthan. I asked the Sahelis how an unusually dry or wet season affects their lives, to see if climate change's future effect on agriculture is something that could be explained to customers in the future. All the Sahelis unanimously said that it can have catastrophic effects on their lives, since many of the women and their husbands are farmers.
“It [rising temperatures] affects us because we are farmers, and we face problems in farming, and nothing gets done. Buffalo run away due to thirst. Crops don’t grow, and some households don’t even have food to eat.”

“It [rising temperatures] affects us because we are farmers, and we face problems in farming, and nothing gets done. Buffalo run away due to thirst. Crops don’t grow, and some households don’t even have food to eat.”

This experience in Dholpur has been the highlight of my experience in India so far, showing me a glimpse of rural life in Rajasthan-- which felt like a world apart from the bustling city of Jaipur where I have been living for the past four weeks. I will always remember sitting cross-legged on the floor of each Saheli's home, sipping home-made chai and listening to everything they had to say about climate change, renewable energy, their families, their newfound confidence and sense of purpose, their hopes and dreams. We could not be more different in terms of background, socioeconomic status, or culture, but those barriers suddenly seemed unimportant when discussing climate change, which has the potential to affect almost everyone in the world, as well as their inspiring journey from uneducated housewife to confident solar energy saleswoman. They graciously let me into their lives for those three days, and I hope I come away from it a better environmentalist, feminist, and person.
Doing a demo of a new solar product

Doing a demo of a new solar product in Nangla Darwesha village

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Married at first sight

When I think about Indian weddings, I always imagined a lavish, Bollywood-esque celebration of dance, color, and joy. So when I was invited to my hostel’s security guard’s daughter’s wedding (so random, I know) on just my fourth day in India, I immediately said yes. How could I pass up on seeing the ultimate celebration of love in another country? We drove about an hour out of Jaipur to a rural deserted piece of farmland, driving through dark fields and small dirt alleys, passing farmers, goats, and cows, and getting seemingly very lost. And then we turned the corner and saw a huge tent, with twinkling lights and lanterns hanging from it, the dull sound of Indian pop music growing louder as we approached. DSC_0021   DSC_0024             When I stepped inside, I was immediately swarmed with people asking to take selfies with me. Even in just my first four days in India, I had already gotten used to people staring and asking for photos, but I felt so uncomfortable being the center of attention at someone else’s wedding-- especially someone who I had never met before!! I was crossing my fingers that the bride and groom would arrive soon so the attention would be off of me and I could actually relax.
making some cute new friends!

making some cute new friends!

When they finally arrived, a crowd immediately formed, full of excited chatter, everyone peering over each other’s shoulders to get a glimpse of the bride. And there she was, finally: The most gorgeous bride I’d ever seen, dressed in a sparkling red sari and matching red lipstick. Everyone was chattering about how beautiful she was and then I looked at her face to see how she was feeling: Nervous? Excited? In love? She just looked so… unhappy. She wavered between looking like she was holding back tears to just being furious. DSC_0032 I asked the hostel owner who had invited me what was wrong, and he matter-of-factly explained that this was the first time she had ever met her husband. I never realized just how naive I was until this moment. I had read about arranged marriages before, and my dad’s coworkers who I have met many times are a product of an arranged marriage, and are happily in love with an adorable baby. However, they had months to get to know each other after their parents introduced them before finally tying the knot, and I had naively just assumed that that was the way it was done now. Learning that this was the first time the bride and groom met completely floored me. There are certain values I have that are deeply engrained into who I am and everything I do, and my passion for and belief in gender equality is one of them. Just a few months ago, I drove ten hours to march for my beliefs along with hundreds of thousands of other women at the Women’s March on Washington, and last summer I interned in Uganda for a women’s microfinance organization, where one of my primary tasks was organizing community programs to address the issues of gender violence and domestic abuse in the village. I have always fought for what I believed in, and always spoken up when I know that something is wrong. But here I was, in a different country on a different continent on a random rural farm surrounded by people I didn’t know, watching a beautiful young women be given away to a man she met an hour ago, and there was nothing I could do about it. I had to swallow everything I believed in right then, and accept that certain things are simply out of my control. I could have been upset, but what purpose would that serve? My feelings that this was unjust was not going to break down thousands of years of global gender inequity and history of arranged marriages in one night, and certainly weren’t going to stop this wedding, or the next one, or the next one after that. So I put a smile on my face, and joined in on hours of eating, drinking, selfies, and then more eating. I danced barefoot under the stars until 3am, as the bride’s eyes welled up in tears as she exchanged vows, promising to spend eternity with a stranger.
Exchanging of vows

Exchanging of vows

After a beautiful, fascinating, but slightly unsettling night, I reflected the next day on this wedding with the other interns at work, who are all Indian MBA students. They explained that while it is uncommon in urban areas for a couple to not meet before they marry, in rural areas, the children face so much more pressure to go along with who their parents think would be a good match for them, with some daughters being unable to refuse. The matter-of-fact way in which they explained modern arranged marriages, where typically parents introduce their children and then they can spend time together and mutually decide if they are a good fit, actually began to make more sense to me in theory, since your immediate family members and parents are usually some of the people who know you the best. But what struck me the most was how this whole concept of arranged marriages just contrasts so sharply with the Western idea of what falling in love and marriage means, this fairy tale-like romance that is perpetuated by romantic comedies and novels. My conversation with my coworkers helped me understand that in India, valuing practicality, family, commitment, and life-long partnership outweigh the emphasis on romance and soul mates that is so common in the US. This was the first time that I actually thought seriously about the concept of marriage, reflecting on how lucky I am to have the agency to choose who to marry, when to marry, and if I even want to get married at all. This choice was something I’ve always taken for granted, jokingly saying to friends how I’ll never want to settle down and end up a crazy old woman with ten cats. I never realized how privileged I am to have the option to be independent and have my own identity, and this experience opened my eyes in ways I am truly grateful for. These reflections in no way are meant to be offensive, and while arranged marriages are not present in the US in the same way they are in India, women’s lack of agency and ability to make independent choices manifests itself in a variety of ways in India, the US, and all around the world. My challenge moving forwards is accepting these cultural differences and variety of beliefs in regards to gender, accepting what I cannot change, and fighting as hard as I can for the things I can change. I am honored to have been a part of this wedding, and I wish nothing but the best for the bride and groom. DSC_0011 copy

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Pre-departure Final Thoughts

Today’s the day! I leave tonight for the adventure of a lifetime-- though that’s a bit hard to imagine from my middle seat on the plane for the next 19 hours. This whole process started months ago when I stumbled upon this fellowship and immediately felt like the stars had aligned for me. India has always been a part of my life in a distant way, having grown up hearing stories of my father’s treks through the Himalayas or nights spent camping in a tiger reserve. My sister also spent four months in India studying public health, and I was enthralled by her stories of the prayer service she attended with the Dalai Lama, and her wonderful homestay family in Delhi. The stories of their adventures have stuck with me, and I’ve always felt a calling to follow and share these experiences with them.  This fellowship will make me the third in my family to go to India at the age of 20-- an incredibly unique bond for us. After about three months of talking through the application with Janelle--my life saver throughout this whole process--I finally got the email that I was accepted to SISA. I was overwhelmed by so many emotions, but mostly excitement. I am honored to be a part of this program, along with nine other students, who will all have their own unique and life-changing experiences. One aspect of the SISA fellowship I found especially appealing was the independence it affords students to completely design their own internship and research. This independence led to a wonderfully diverse cohort of fellows, all working in different regions of India in many different fields, but all about to share a common experience. I’ll be spending my fellowship in Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, known as the “Pink City.” From everything I’ve read and heard, Jaipur is gorgeous, with majestic forts, colorful markets, and stunning architecture. I can’t wait to explore, and most likely get very lost, in this beautiful city. amber-fort-jaipur In Jaipur, I’ll be interning with an NGO called Frontier Markets for two months. Frontier Markets aims to provide rural communities in Rajasthan with safe, clean solar energy. The Indian government recently has made a significant push towards transitioning from coal to renewable energy in response to India’s rapidly growing energy market, however, solar energy rarely reaches rural areas. Frontier Markets addresses this poor rural electrification rate by using an innovative distribution method, partnering with local entrepreneurs to distribute their solar products. One aspect of their distribution model is their Solar Sahelis program, which trains rural women to sell their solar products to other women, empowering them and providing them with employment. I will be researching the methods Frontier Markets uses to convince rural women to use and sell their products, and what part of this marketing tactic and solar energy in general is attractive to the women. solar-sahelis Each student is coming into their fellowship with a different perspective, and hoping to get different things out of their time in India. For me, I intend to pursue a career in international development, however, like most soon-to-be Seniors, I don’t know where the next chapter will take me. I’m passionate about female empowerment and global health, but also I recently have become increasingly interested in environmental issues and conservation. Frontier Markets satisfies both of these interests, and I can’t imagine a more perfect fit for me, since Frontier Markets empowers and employs women in their innovative solar energy business, spreading renewable energy in a world and country that desperately needs it. I have few expectations going into India, other than that I know it will challenge me and thrill me in ways I cannot yet imagine. As someone who despises the heat, and gets deeply sad seeing poverty, especially in children, I know that my time in India will challenge me. However, I am always up for an adventure and willing to try anything, and I hope that these qualities will carry me through this trip. I hope to come away from this experience with new and broadened perspectives, and I genuinely cannot wait to learn so much from my fellowship: from my Frontier Markets coworkers, from my research, from the people I meet on the street, from the city of Jaipur, and from all the small, intangible moments that make up Indian culture. Upon hearing that I won the fellowship, my dad gave me his battered, worn book about Gandhi he has kept with him for years. I’ll end this blog here with one of Gandhi’s famous quotes that I hope will guide me through this fellowship: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” I’ll carry this message with me throughout my time in India, and the next time you hear from me, I’ll be out of my middle seat and on the other side of the world.

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