There were four stages of my departure from India: the first, when I said goodbye to my friends in Jaipur, the second, when my parents arrived for Christmas (thus ending my “abroad” lifestyle), then, my arrival home (with the fortunate opportunity of experiencing my culture shock alongside my family), and lastly, my arrival in Claremont. Each of these were significant in their own way- they each provided unique learning opportunities and various perspectives for reflection. The start of the school year, and the madness that has ensued, has so far been the most overwhelming, and in many ways, most telling of all these experiences. One aspect of this was the overwhelming number of friends I reunited with, meetings I needed to schedule, and internship deadlines I immediately faced. Some of the most basic aspects of college even became foreign- the massive buffets, the luxurious facilities (yes I said it,) even the sheer number of people who seemed remarkably similar to myself in age, race, and even personality. Many of these stressors have also proven to be the best comforts: my friends, a busy schedule, peers willing to debate and connect on an intellectual level, even the ability to exercise every day. Of all these things, one aspect of CMC that has brought me tremendous satisfaction in the last two weeks –even more than I expected- is the ability to contribute and involve myself so immensely in the CMC community.
When I was abroad I always felt like an outsider, dependent on others to survive. I was in India as a student, my role was to absorb, to accept the wealth of knowledge and hospitality bestowed upon me by the incredible Indians I was surrounded by. To some this may sound amazing- in many ways the role is unique to a young traveler like myself- but this role often makes me feel anxious. My personality is to contribute, to get involved, to give back; although I love the opportunity to travel, I feel best when I can act in those ways. Claremont gives us all an incredible chance to get involved- to spread ourselves thin, to be leaders (if we chose), and hopefully, and most of all, to be a part of a community where we can offer our diversity of interests, talents, and ambitions.
Now before this dives to into the KLI-esque leadership cheese fest, I do think its worth reflecting on these opportunities as the privileges they really are. As I have readjusted to the extreme materialism of the US, the fact that this privilege stood out to me really says something. Sure, many people in a country like India would be jealous of our sports cars, our fancy electronics, and our stylish clothes. But I think the real value lies in our voices. Whether we chose to use them or not, we are each granted a wonderful opportunity to use our voices in ways that many people in India could never imagine. Our freedom to get involved with different interests, to advance in areas we find interesting, even to constructively criticize our peers, these should all be considered in our wealth of opportunities at CMC.
What this also helped me realize is how important it is to recognize the voices that are being quieted even in Claremont. This privilege is an exceedingly important aspect of CMC’s culture and any force that exists to suppress it- whether it race, sexual orientation, nationality, or even political position- should be acknowledged. I for one am extremely grateful for the incredible opportunities I have to use my voice and to contribute to things I believe in but I also recognize the factors that exist that grant me this privilege. As I continue to understand this dynamic and continue to take full advantage of the opportunities I have, I see some responsibility in ensuring that CMC continues to strive to be more open and welcoming to those whose voices may have been overshadowed in the past.