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.


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.


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.


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.


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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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.

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