Spending my summer working as a Global English Camp intern in Japan has been nothing short of transformative (cliche I know), but the weeks I spent participating in the program have been a journey. A year ago, the prospect of traveling to a foreign country alone seemed like a faraway dream. It was something I eventually wanted to do, but in the far future, restricted to the realms of my bucket list. As a result, since I had never flown by myself, landing in Haneda airport tasked with the goal of navigating to the welcoming week venue was like being thrown in the deep end. Since this is my first formal teaching experience, I spent week 1 nervously glued to the textbook’s curriculum. Looking back now, I was surprised by how quickly switching venues each week and tailoring my teaching style to a new set of students became normal.
Toshin’s Asahikawa venue in Hokkaido
Now that I have gotten the opportunity to travel, live, and work in Japan—to see Hokkaido, Tokyo, and Yokohama—and most importantly meet and work with so many amazing students and fellow interns, I have realized three main things:
1. The importance of packing light
My carry-on, checked, and laptop bag
Bringing all of the bags depicted in the image to the left was a mistake. I quickly realized I could have left half of the clothes I packed behind in the US. Trains are usually very crowded. This made hauling all of my things onto the platform every time I had to check out of housing the bane of my existence for the duration of my internship.
2. The 5 Day Difference is real.
English Camp has a 5 day curriculum that transitions from ice-breaker activities on Day 1 that get students more comfortable speaking English, to UN sustainable development goal discussions on Day 3, and eventually life mission presentations on Day 5, where each student gives a 5 minute speech in front of the whole class. Coming into the program, I was not sure how much of an impact interns could realistically have on their groups in such a short period of time, but each week teaching has pleasantly surprised me. Even just comparing Day 1 to Day 3, many of my students’ English speaking confidence has improved drastically. Students have gone from only responding to questions when called on to volunteering to participate, asking questions of their own, and even making jokes.
3. The program’s impact is definitely not just restricted to students.
Day 5 Intern Speeches
Talking with students and helping them find and or articulate their life mission in English, as well as, listening to other interns present on their future dreams, has made me more motivated to achieve mine. Group discussions on global problems increased my awareness of issues relevant to Japan (like the country’s increasing aging population, the countryside’s decreasing population, and the nation’s doctor shortage).
Overall, although this was a teaching internship, I ended up learning so much from my students and coworkers. Working as a Global English Camp Mentor, somehow ended up solidifying my desire to merge travel, research, education, and medicine in my future career as a global health physician.
Excuse the bad pun. But when you’re lucky enough to work for NASA for a while, sometimes you just can’t help it.
While I haven’t worked in many office buildings, I think the day-to-day at NASA Headquarters is much the same as any other office, albeit with a few more space-themed posters and wall hangings around. I came in each day, logged in, and spent the day googling acronyms, reading documents, and writing conclusions, with a lunch break spent with other interns listening to speakers from around the building (once, an astronaut!). Because I was in Washington, I also got to attend various Congressional hearings, and even met Dr. Christine Darden, who was one of the researchers featured in Hidden Figures (the book).
But, of course, the content of those documents and conclusions is what’s exciting.
I interned in the Office of the Chief Health and Medical Officer, which boils down to about fifteen people handling all of NASA’s health policies, both for astronauts and employees in terms of occupational medicine. Needless to say, they are all quite busy. But each one of them managed to find a few hours to spend with a young intern looking to enter their field, aerospace medicine, and from them I learned just how much NASA serves the public on the health side of their operations. Research is being conducted on the International Space Station (ISS) that benefits efforts to combat forgotten diseases in the developing world, and rocket parts make up a key component of every pacemaker, to name a few. As we journey further into outer space, we’ll learn more about the effects of microgravity on the human body, which will benefit aging, stress, and bone research back on Earth. At the end of the summer, the office sent me to Johnson Space Center in Houston to see how everything medical that NASA does is actually carried out. Between touring famed locations, like Mission Control and the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, and meeting young flight surgeons who care for the astronauts aboard the ISS, it made me off-the-charts excited to go down this career path myself.
It’s not just the tangible benefits, however, that made my work exciting. During my senior year of high school, I wrote and presented an original research paper on how missions to Mars can unite humans as a species. I wish I could go back in time and reference what I saw this summer, specifically on July 20, 2019: the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing and the first time we set foot on another world. There were celebrations all over DC, and the office was buzzing with excitement the entire week. My boss, possibly the busiest and most dedicated person I’ve ever met, even took an afternoon off to visit the National Air & Space Museum with me and tell me about the medical side of each artifact in it.
The thing about that weekend that will always be cemented in my brain, though, was at 11:30 pm on the anniversary itself, which ended up being a sweltering, muggy, generally-miserable-to-be-outside day. My friend and I rushed to catch the projection on Washington Monument, hoping some of the crowds would have cleared out by that time of night. We were dead wrong. The National Mall was so packed around the screens that it was impossible to walk through the middle of it. At first I was a little frustrated, but as the Saturn V rose on the Monument and JFK’s famous speech filled the air, I found myself marveling that all of these people hailing from all over the globe– very few of whom were even alive when the Moon landing occurred– had come together to watch. It was the perfect vindication of all the work I’d done the previous year, and it gives me a great amount of hope for the future of humanity. It is truly incredible what we can accomplish together.
My project was to review the medical debriefs from the Apollo missions and compare them to NASA’s current human spaceflight requirements, which are centered around the ISS. Now that we’re aiming to return to the Moon with the Artemis missions, those requirements will need to be updated to incorporate a longer journey as well as landings in gravity. While the physicians will provide the technological expertise in how the requirements will actually be updated, my recommendations give them guidelines as to where to look.
This summer, I’ve learned that any human spaceflight truly does take a village. It has been such a privilege to be a small part of our next giant leap.
The minor theater where I first met and treated Precious
We’ll call the baby in this story Precious, because his mother looked at him every day like he was the best gift the universe had ever given her. Precious was a newborn baby who I first saw this summer in the minor theater of Levolosi Health Center in Arusha, Tanzania when he was nine days old. He had two large incisions on his stomach from a colostomy he had been given soon after birth. The hospital the mother had gone to did not have colostomy bags available, and neither did Levolosi. So, the mother would change a piece of gauze over baby Precious’ intestine every thirty minutes to an hour. When he first arrived, I remember being sure he wasn’t going to survive. He was so small, skinny, and weak, unlike the pudgy squalling babies I saw every day in the labor ward. The wounds from Precious’ surgery were ringed with a layer of infected pus. But every single day Precious’ mother brought him back to the minor theater. There, I cleaned out his wounds and around the piece of colon using Normal Saline. I then lathered on a layer of triple antibiotic and redid his dressings. His mother was not rich, had another baby to care for, and no job, but her healthcare for Precious was free, like all healthcare for children under five in Tanzania. Precious’ mother would sometimes need to wait an hour to get her baby’s dressing changed. But she was still thankful for the care provided by Levolosi. She still came back every day, and every day I would redo his dressings. In the month I helped take care of Precious, one of his wounds closed and the other got dramatically smaller. Precious’ mother recently reached out to me and told me that when he reaches six months of age, he will get a surgery to repair the colostomy.
Caring for Precious and his mother gave me joy. But it was not because I offered any life-changing care. I have limited knowledge of medicine and just followed the directions of the trained doctors and nurses in changing Precious’ dressings. I am still worried about Precious and think he will have a hard life ahead of him. It is easy to see how the medicine in Tanzania could be better. Some of the practices are outdated and have not been used in America for years or even decades. After being in Tanzania I shadowed doctors in the United States and was shocked by American healthcare’s luxury.
Gleaming white linoleum stretched over the surface of the massive labor ward, contrasting the stained cream tiles in the single labor room of Levolosi. All the tools in the trauma room were single use, unlike Levolosi’s rusting tools that were cycled through the sterilizer at the end of every day. I am grateful for being able to observe the contrast of Tanzania and the United States. But I am also grateful that there were so many similarities between Tanzania and America. ‘Do no harm’ is still the guiding principle of medicine. It still helps more than it hurts.
The sterilizer that all the instruments are cycled through on a daily basis
Many of the Tanzanian doctors who I worked with were volunteers. Medical jobs are scarce since most of the openings are for government positions and the government budget cannot pay the salaries of all the necessary doctors. Because of this, many fully trains doctors work for several years as volunteers after medical school. But they still work eighty hours a week. They work all night and then stay into the next day because the hospital is short-staffed, and sixty patients need to be seen by three doctors between nine in the morning and noon. The doctors work hard and do their best. Tanzania, like the United States, gets better and better in the medical care it offers its citizens. Sixty years ago, baby Precious might not have survived. Now, with luck and continued maternal care, he will be able to grow up to go to school and have his own family. Sharing the beginning of Precious’ journey and seeing a piece of the healthcare journey in Tanzania is what made my summer worthwhile.
I worked in Cincinnati, Ohio, with Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld and his office. I worked mainly in the office, but I accompanied the staff to nearly-daily meetings with constituents and community members, participated in tours and press conferences, and observed council/committee meetings.
I worked with the two staff members, Jazz and Chris, to brainstorm the City response when there were shootings downtown—an experience very pertinent to our discussion of gun violence this year. Congressman Tim Ryan also held a press conference outside of City Hall in response to the Dayton shooting, and I got to participate and meet him! I also got a glimpse of the wide broach of subjects in which city officials are required to be versed: environmental policy, gun violence, affordable housing issues, among many others. The battle between development and affordable housing provisions was a constant fight I witnessed during my time at City Hall.
Heading into this internship, I had the intention of identifying problems and disconnects within the council and interwoven throughout their relationship to the community. Here are a few of my observations thus far, in brief.
The relationship between the media and the City Council is shifty and strategic, at best. Many reporters for the Cincinnati Enquirer have quotas to fill and, when there’s nothing of true notice happening in Cincinnati, the reporter is obligated to use a little creativity. One such example is the “scandal” surrounding five of the councilmembers; donned the “Gang of Five,” these members have been repeatedly targeted for communicating with one another in text messages. The Enquirer continues to resurface and rehash this scandal which, of course, translates into this issue becoming most important in the eyes of the public. Little coverage was given to significant Council achievements — like passing a $1 billion+ budget — and more is given to objectively less-important problems like the “Gang of Five” or the streetcar drama. Chris, PG’s chief-of-staff, “feeds” one of the main reporters information to write about and subjects that will instigate less drama.
It’s a precarious balance, and one that I wish weren’t necessary. Clearly, the news has to report something, and reporters are hardly to blame for digging and grasping at juicy straws. Little incentive exists for news agencies to present information accurately or at least without skewing relative importance. And even if incentive did exist, some of the more important issues like the budget will not pull in clicks, which can be harmful for the success of the organization. When the media (newspapers, blogs, and talk radio) is the only source of information for a disconnected public, the issue seems hopeless; if media does not portray reality, the public has no other way of knowing what really goes on at City Hall and in their government.
This, of course, is an issue embedded at the heart of national and international politics. Media has somewhat unchecked power in regard to what it feeds the public. But, it is important to remember that this is not a binary situation—often, reality is much more dry than media representation, and the public craves drama. This craving is rooted in biological motivations (see various studies on the amygdala and its response to crisis/excitement), so is it possible to ever reroute a public which thrives on bad news? Although this issue is something I’m passionate about (and wrote about in my Common Application essay), I don’t think that this is a job I would ever want to take on. While it is fast-paced and exciting and you get to meet/correspond with many new people, the politics is often just off-putting. I knew this would be the case going in, but I think that this experience has further cemented in my mind that I will likely not pursue politics as an elected official.
However, this was an incredible summer experience and one that I’d recommend to anyone, whether they have an acute interest in local government or not.
City Hall, my home for the summer
Meeting Congressman Tim Ryan in a press conference on gun violence!
This summer, I interned at the clinically integrated network of Children’s National Health System. I really enjoyed my time in Washington, D.C (loved the city!) and the opportunity to explore public health work in a clinical environment. My experiences over the 10 weeks opened my eyes to new fields and careers that I had never considered before.
The team I worked with brings together community-based physicians and pediatric specialists to manage the rising costs associated with health services and provide high quality care to children in the area. One of the ways they do so is through Quality Improvement Initiatives. These are long-term projects, and I was involved with an assessment of pediatric providers, which provided a better understanding of current practices regarding the management of constipation in the primary care setting.
One of the most meaningful experiences I had this summer was observing patient visits at the IMPACT DC Asthma Clinic, which has a focus on helping children from impoverished areas in D.C. Working at an institution that takes a holistic approach to medicine to address inequities in health care highlighted the importance of the social determinants of health and the difficulties socioeconomic disparities pose to medicine.
Additionally, I learned a lot about what work environments are most productive for me and how to effectively communicate with others on my team. I am so thankful for this experience and the amazing people I was able to meet over the summer. I now better understand the rewarding nature of a career in medicine and have a much deeper interest in population health.
Children’s National has a trademark saying that you’ll hear every so often and see on posters around the hospital: “only in pediatrics can you save a lifetime.”
Members of Children’s National’s Pediatric Health Network at the Future of Pediatrics Conference
This summer, I had the opportunity to work at the Legal Services of New Jersey as a PICS intern. For 10 weeks, I was pleasantly surprised as I discovered what it meant to work in a New Jersey office building, which you can read about in my previous post. Not only was my view of New Jersey transformed through the many learning opportunities I had working with clients, but as I welcomed my first introduction to office-life, I learned what interests me most and how to advocate for myself in my pursuit of such work.
Going into my internship I knew, if nothing else, I excelled at communication- in other words, I like to talk. But how could I use my personality in the workplace? In my naive perspective of a legal office, I assumed the attorneys were strictly professional and that there was no room to express myself in the office. I was quickly proven wrong as I learned that the majority of our work begins with talking. Developing a safe and open line of communication with the clients and the community is the first step in providing the legal help necessary. My favorite part of working with Legal Services is that they are directly involved in the client’s life. I spoke with some clients every day and often reviewed their cases with the attorneys, making the clients a part of our lives as well. I learned that I loved to explain the steps we would take in a case to the clients. I loved answering their questions and hearing their concerns. I even loved that some would call multiple times a week to check on the progress of their case. By far, the best part of my summer was being able to meet some of the clients we helped in-person. I never expected to become so involved in the lives of our clients, but I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
Nevertheless, working in an office is hard. While I loved the diversity of work assigned to me, I preferred the opportunities I had to go to court, where all of our research and advice came together in action, and the hospitals where social workers helped refer patients in need of legal assistance to our offices. I made clear that I wanted to spend time offsite, and my supervisors granted me the opportunity to do just that. Additionally, I was introduced to many different types of civil law, and I learned that I preferred to work on cases concerning family law, guardianship, and special education rather than cases regarding health insurance. While I spent time learning a little about each, as I grew confident in showing my preferences, I began to enjoy the work more. I learned how to be clear about my expectations of work with my supervisors and once I established clear, honest, and frequent communication with them, my work experience excelled and I began doing tasks I never thought I could.
I am so grateful for all that I learned this summer. While I still am uncertain about my future, I am sure that I need to be involved in an organization that has a strong community outreach component. Working with Legal Services the past 10 weeks, I saw so many people who were simply unaware of the rights they had or unable to advocate for themselves because of their circumstances. I know I want to help educate people so that there is no inequality in access to resources. I also know that I want to be in a place like Legal Services that supports my diverse interests and uses that variety of knowledge for a greater purpose. Finally, as I began building a relationship with my coworkers, I realized how dependent our work is on each other, and when we were missing a member their absence was notable. I always thought I excelled at independent work, but being a part of a team made me feel at home. I am happy to say I had a home at Legal Services and I know that wherever I work next, that will be the best expectation.
A few of my amazing coworkers that made LSNJ feel like home.
This summer, I worked in a mechanical engineering lab at Princeton. There, I contributed to a project headed by a postdoc studying the diffusion of fluids and nutrients through soil and how this impacts the bacteria living in clay soils. These bacteria take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, but their behavior in specific soil conditions is difficult to determine, which relates my project to climate change and sustainability.
Something I found that I really liked this summer was working on a project that has environmental significance. I am interested in sustainability and environmental issues – I am part of the sustainability and resilience cohort, after all – but as a chemical engineering student it isn’t something that I am sure will be part of my career. However, I this summer I worked in a mechanical engineering lab on a project that related to the environment, which just showed me that there is environmental significance in so many different areas. I enjoyed knowing that the work I did had this significance, and I will move on from this experience knowing even more that my passion for the environment and for what I’m studying can be intertwined.
This summer I also discovered is that working in an academic lab might not be something that interests me after Princeton. I enjoyed having the freedom to explore an area of study and take my experiments in the direction I felt was best. For example, I often studied the movement of nutrients through wet or dry artificial clay soils, and depending on what I saw I could decide my next move – whether to repeat an experiment, change a piece of it, or move in an entirely different direction. While I enjoyed this for the summer, I don’t think I could see myself working in this mindset for an extended period of time. Instead of having to wait years to see the results of my study, I think I would prefer to work on shorter term projects, where I can see the results of what I do more quickly.
Overall, I am so thankful for this experience. Thanks to this project and those working with and around me, I learned so much about fluid mechanics, soil properties, cameras, and academic labs in general – all things I previously knew next to nothing about. But more importantly, I learned more about myself and what my future might look like.
Food runners come in on Thursdays and we all crowd around the pastries, hoping to snatch a savory one before they’re gone.
Tess, New Door’s beloved CEO of 16 years, occasionally sends articles and videos to us, some that inspire, others that infuriate, all forces that keep us going.
Every time someone finishes a significant task or a donation comes in, everyone celebrates together. This includes the time when I cleaned out and reorganized the cabinets, and after I saved two very cute desk plants from an untimely demise (underwatering and overwatering, respectively).
It’s been a good time.
A few seconds of my ten weeks there weren’t so golden though.
As a part of the development team, my coworkers interact with many well-connected, wealthy people. One mentioned meeting someone who had pretty much the same job as her, interacting with donors and forming relationships. This person made a lot more money because they went corporate.
Every interaction with outside entities has to be logged in Salesforce. This is of course necessary and comes in handy later, but after sending over a hundred emails and requests, my eyes start glazing over a bit.
Also, I fell down the stairs and came down with the flu.
The benefits of working at New Door still overwhelmingly exceeded the negatives. New Door’s education and employment programs give youth access to resources that every young person deserves in order to transition to adulthood:
access to public transit
lots of snacks
The program is crazy effective and graduates have gone on to do amazing things. Just knowing that the money we raise go towards breaking the cycles of inequality is enough to make a job fulfilling, not to mention everything else that I love about this place.
I’ve visited some big corporate headquarters. With their endless standing desks, beautiful architecture, fridges full of free drinks and snacks, and lunchtime yoga, I can imagine it being very easy to migrate over to corporate. And let’s not talk about the effect of San Francisco’s ever-rising housing costs.
At Princeton, there’s a lot of talk about “selling out”, namely while referencing a big consulting company or whatnot. It scared me for a while, so much that my dreams were haunted by the thought of working at an imaginary soul-sucking place solely devoted to the bottom line. You’d think that working at a nonprofit would reinforce that fear, but here I’ve learned that many people who’ve become wealthy stay connected to their communities. And with their success, they’re able to make big donations and regularly volunteer. There are even opportunities to do pro-bono work for nonprofits.
This summer has really opened my eyes. There are so many opportunities available if I just believe in myself, work towards them (and cherish my support system!). My enthusiasm for service hasn’t waned, I’ve discovered that I love fundraising, and my curiosity about working a for-profit job has increased.
Still wondering what will happen, but I know for sure that I’ll keep learning and exploring 🙂
Today was my last day as a Policy Intern for the Center for Disability Rights (CDR), a disability advocacy organization headquartered in Rochester, New York. Because of my own disability, I was able to intern remotely from the comfort of my home in Maryland instead of relocating to New York for the summer. I had a variety of tasks that taught me about the local, state, and federal government advocacy process.
Throughout the summer, I did research on a wide range of topics that affect people with disabilities. These topics weren’t always things I traditionally associated with disability, but because of my internship, I learned that pretty much any policy issue relates back to disability. For example, I researched opioids and how they help people with chronic pain, automatic vehicles and their potential to increase independence for people with disabilities, rentable micromobility scooters and how they block walkways, gun violence and how blaming it on mental illness increases stigma, and much, much more. Every day was different and educational. I would often take what I learned and turn it into a social media post for CDR.
One of my biggest projects this summer was writing an official position paper for CDR about increasing political engagement by people with disabilities. I thought about how we as a society can make sure people with disabilities are included in the political process, from voting to supporting campaigns to participating in government events to running for office. Especially with the upcoming election, it is essential that people with disabilities feel empowered to mobilize and show up to vote. However, there are often both physical and societal barriers that prevent people with disabilities like myself from being able to fully participate in the political process. I am excited to continue this focus on political engagement throughout the year in my Advocacy and Policy cohort.
The most exciting part of my summer was when I went to a week-long conference in Washington D.C. held by the National Council on Independent Living. Disability advocates from around the country and even the world got together to learn from each other and organize as a collective group to make an impact on disability policy. I participated in engaging workshops, met amazing people, and most importantly, put my advocacy skills to the test during a day on the Hill. A big focus of the conference was the Disability Integration Act, which allows people with disabilities to get the services they need at home and in the community instead of in an institution. We participated in a march to the Capitol and then held a rally outside the building where important members of Congress spoke, including Chuck Schumer, who introduced the Senate version of the bill. I appreciated getting to hear from legislators who were making an effort to support Americans with disabilities. Then, I got to meet with staffers from Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, as well as a staffer for one New York Representative and an actual Representative himself, who seemed way more engaged than the staffers. I loved getting to talk to members of Congress and their staff and explaining why they should support or oppose certain bills. It was so cool to spend time on Capitol Hill surrounded by the people who keep our government running. I even ran into Bernie Sanders while crossing the street!
My internship showed me that I want to pursue a career in disability advocacy after college. Advocacy is not always easy, but this summer I learned how important and rewarding it really is. I am so grateful for this amazing experience.
I finished my internship at the end of July, but the eight and a half weeks that I spent in Sri Lanka were truly eye opening. Sri Lanka and I have always had a dynamic relationship, the humidity and mosquitoes always make me feel uninvited, but my family, the culture, and the food always make me want to come back. On top of all that, this year I also had the chance to tutor Ayesha, a girl at the orphanage in my grandparents’ town. This truly helped in shaping my summer experience.
Sri Lanka is going through its own identity crisis, where ethnicity and religion are being questioned in loyalty to the country. It’s its own case study, but it had relevancy in my life and made the summer different than most other summers. My own identity crisis was not the same as what the country was going through, but I was struggling to find legitimacy in my own identity when my American accent shaped the way I was seen as a “real” Sri Lankan. However, being able to tutor Ayesha in English and Ayesha in turn teaching me more Sinhala helped create a bond between us. It also showed her that she wasn’t just a student, she also had skills that she was able to teach to others. It was a powerful summer, and even though she is still learning the basics of English, I am proud to know that in the two months that I was there, she improved in her skills and helped me in mine.
Being in Sri Lanka did show me a few negatives about myself, mostly about how lenient I can get. In order to really teach kids I have to be more strict with lessons. I have to learn how to pay more attention to the tutoring aspect, and not just in creating a positive environment. However, it showed me that tutoring and service work are two things I want to continue doing.
Not all the girls at the orphanage are pictured in the group photo and Ayesha is pictured in the solo photo.