The Flip Side of Studying Abroad: What the Brochures Won’t Tell You

You’ve seen the brochures. You’ve obsessed over a frenemy’s Facebook pictures. Traveling to a foreign location is very well may be on everyone’s college bucket list. But there’s a lot more to studying abroad than fancy beach getaways and double-tap-worthy selfie opportunities. Here are some things to consider before diving into an international excursion:

You may not get along with all of the students on the trip. 
Depending on your program, you may be traveling and/or living with students who aren’t from your normal group of friends; they may not even be your age or from your school. While many students come back from study abroad trips with great new friendships, there’s a chance you won’t click with your group.

For full post, click here.

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Why I take issue with most Indian Soap Operas’ treatment of women

My home has a lot of Hindi TV playing, and through the many hours and seasons, I’ve noticed (and have becomes especially frustrated) with certain disturbing trends in the majority of the television shows that are so widely viewed and loved by its audience.

Indian serials perpetuate a Madonna-Whore complex. In brief, the Madonna-Whore complex is this notion that women exist only on two opposite poles: one is the celebrated “Madonna,” the symbol of all that is pure, chaste, virtuous, soft-spoken, meek, etc. while the other is the scorned “Whore,” embodying the opposite. In most Indian soap operas, the main female protagonist is loved and admired because of a few choice characteristics: modesty, humility, loyalty, unquestioning subservience to the elders of her home, and the ability to quietly tolerate any and all hardship without protest; in short, is the archetypical Madonna. The female antagonist, on the other hand, is written to be loathed for her ambition, outspokenness, and/or desire to challenge the traditional hierarchical family structure. She almost always dresses in a less demure way than the female lead, and has more jarring makeup. She may have had a *gasp* divorce, is married a second time, or is a young woman who plans on snatching away the female lead’s man.

This dichotomy is so infuriating, because it’s perpetuated in show after show, episode after episode, as the antagonist female’s independence, self-reliance, and outspokenness is demonized in the face of the protagonist’s subservient/maternal/tolerating nature. The few times a female lead begins to take a more proactive, non-passive role is when her family’s honor is at stake– which is very noble and honorable I guess, but we never see her do the same for herself. Indian serials need to stop glorifying this over the top, self-sacrificing nature that reinforces the idea that a woman’s only role is to serve others around her. We need more female protagonist characters that seek out success for themselves. 

Indian serials’ female characters’ entire lives revolve solely around acquiring/serving the significant male figure in their life. Indian culture is obsessed with marriage. The central theme of the majority of the Hindi serials on air right now is either the struggle to get married, or the struggle to maintain a marriage. And we get it. Yes, marriage is a milestone in life–but it’s not the sole reason for existence.

In a similar strain to my previous point, women in Hindi T.V. serials need to be more independent– not just from a character’s standpoint of being financial and emotional independence, but from the writer’s point as well. A sort of litmus test: Her character should be complex and developed enough that if you take out the significant male characters from her life, she can still stand as a believable character and  complete human being, instead of an empty shell of dependent emotions and responses to the actions of those around her. If she can’t, then the character is too weak to even put into the story. Give her as complex of a backstory as the male lead. Write her a history, a reputation, that doesn’t solely revolve around her past romantic interests.

Hindi television’s main problem is that it lacks not only protagonist strong women to begin with, but is completely devoid of complex women. This quote has been making rounds on Tumblr, and I feel it perfectly encapsulates the crux of my argument.

“Screw writing “strong” women. Write interesting women. Write well-rounded women. Write complicated women. Write a woman who kicks ass, write a woman who cowers in a corner. Write a woman who’s desperate for a husband. Write a woman who doesn’t need a man. Write women who cry, women who rant, women who are shy, women who don’t take no shit, women who need validation and women who don’t care what anybody thinks. They are all ok, and all those things could exist in the same woman. ” –Lori

More excellent commentary on the role of females in media (not just in Indian media, but in general) can also be found here and here

Thankfulness and other seasonally relevant topics

We celebrate “Thanksgiving” with a night of gluttony and 4500 calories. Here’s to taking out a few minutes, prior food-coma, to focus on what really matters tonight: what I’m thankful for.

  1. For Jennifer Lawrence, being a flawless human being in every single way.
  2. For the smell that bread makes as it rises.
  3. For warm clothes.
  4. For whatever divine power that intervened that other night I went to buy an ice cream sandwich from a vending machine, and it gave me THREE sandwiches for the price of one, thereby reinstating my faith in a higher being. (Like, lol wut)
  5. For David Tennant agreeing to be part of the Doctor Who 50th anniversary, making it well worth all of the hype and anticipation.
  6. For colors.
  7. For Orlando Bloom in the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie.
  8. For Anderson Cooper and his giggle.
  9. For every single mentor, teacher, professor I’ve ever had, from pre-K, to today, that has known when to boost my self-esteem, and when to deflate my over-inflated ego.
  10. For books.


(For full post, click here)

The Power of Human Thought

The human brain expends a quarter of the energy we consume each day for the sole purpose of thought. Countless ideas, beliefs, and judgments, are fleeting, and forgotten with each passing day. Outstanding leadership and dedication to service are the only conversion factors we have—the only method of harnessing the sheer energy of human thought and ambition into useable projects and innovations for the betterment of humanity. Leadership and service act together as the only bridge between abstract ideas and concrete results.

I can recall the exact year that the true potential of leadership came to me: 2004, the year that the massive tsunami ravaged South Asia. As the global community grieved and stood in shock at the catastrophic destruction of the event, I remember feeling frustrated. Sentiment and sorrow were apt reactions to the event, but in my eyes, in that time of desperation, it was only action and effort that would make a true positive impact.

I wrote a letter to my elementary school principal asking for permission to accept donations from school and families, and over the course of a couple months, we managed to collect over $1000—near enough funds to build a Habitat for Humanity shelter in the struggling region. Seeing myself and my other 4th grade classmates huddled together in the photo printed in our local newspaper, beaming ear to ear and holding up the Crayola scrawled posters was one of the proudest moments of my life. It was proof to me that leadership was a catalyst, capable of transfiguring the power of human emotion into something extraordinary.

This knowledge and the feeling of complete empowerment have become intertwined with my personality, ideology, and actions through the years. An awareness of the need for strong leadership and commitment to activism have driven me to pursue multiple avenues of citizenship from civic engagement in student debate societies, to first-hand experience in the amazing work of researchers as they work to find cures and explanations to diseases that plague us.

Phone banking in the campaign of our city’s mayor, initiating and running a book club for teens to encourage enthusiasm for literacy, participating in a school play that promoted awareness and acceptance of those living with disability—I’ve striven to grab hold of any opportunity to apply my skills to the service and betterment of the human condition.

Leadership, service, and activism play a crucial role in the advent of progress. Without it, words would remain on paper, and society would stagnate. Leadership and service are what I have realized to be the keys to tapping into the true renewable energy source of the future: the ideas conceived in the human mind.


Cultural paradoxes have had a permanent presence in my life. Living in an immigrant family with strong Indian traditions and proud identity while simultaneously moving to the most conservative, liberal, rural, and urban regions of America has certainly brought some interesting experiences. My numerous encounters with such cultural variations have broadened my view of society and my personal identity, and have convinced me of two facts: one, that exposure to diverse peoples and unique perspectives are the only methods of promoting tolerance, and second, that I want to devote my life to playing an active role in this process of enrichment.

I was born in Texas, and then moved to Maryland, California, Kentucky, Wisconsin, and South Florida. The diversity within this country has become one with my identity. I have witnessed both incredible acceptance, and incredible intolerance, and have been able to identify the root cause of these attitudes at a young age because of my unique perspective. The more informed we are of the great range of cultural norms that exist in the world—the more we realize that the world is not neatly cut into right or wrong, black or white, good or bad—the greater tolerance we exhibit in our interactions with people.

Until the high school, I felt, as most first generation Americans must feel: caught between the culture, traditions, and values of two seemingly irreconcilable fronts. What initiated the spark that altered my outlook was a World History class, taught by an especially influential and intriguing teacher. The course showed me that this process that I was a part of were tides on a shore, with migration at the crest, and assimilation as it crashed on the beach—ceaseless and unstoppable. From the dawn of humanity, human beings are traveling, taking in new experiences, and facing new challenges with resiliency, armed only with knowledge gained by encounters with unique people of various backgrounds. For me to not capitalize on my unique opportunity was ridiculous, and I now know how fortunate I am to have the wisdom and guidance of two entirely different cultures. The strong sense of family and community from Indian culture, and the boldness and individuality of the country I live in are qualities that I have striven to maintain and cultivate in my personality.

This multicultural perspective is a quality I bring to every endeavor of mine; it goes without saying that in today’s immensely interconnected world, a global view is not only desirable, but also crucial for success. It has been my travels in this country, in tandem with my uniquely Indian upbringing that has fostered in me this desire to spread acceptance through the formation of informed, insightful, and educated opinions instead of the preconceived prejudices that tend to reign supreme. I plan on communicating my experiences in an effort to promote a tolerance and open-mindedness that transcends all bounds of ethnicity, profession, socioeconomic background, and all other demarcations that divide us.