Have you ever met a group of people who changed your life in such a short period of time? Well, that’s exactly what happened to me this past summer! I have always surrounded myself with people I have felt comfortable with, but in DC I was finally able to step outside of my comfort zone.
First, I was accepted into a federal internship program (CAPAL) with 28 other students from different universities. When I decided to live in DC, I decided to share a condo with five other girls from around the nation. On my first day of work, I understood that I was placed in a federal agency (USDA) with professionals at many different levels. Through CAPAL, I was even placed with an official mentor and a caPAL (big-little program).
All of those opportunities have allowed me to have interactions with individuals who truly impacted my life!
My mentor was Lakshmi Sridaran and she is the Director Director of National Policy and Advocacy at South Asian Americans Leading Together. I felt so blessed to be able to learn from Lakshmi during my two months in DC. We had so much in common, especially with our passions, past experiences and cultural backgrounds. It was so nice to be able to relate to someone on so many levels and to be able to learn from someone who has gone through similar things in life. She helped me open up a lot more and allowed me to believe in myself and my passions more openly, which was so fantastic!
Lakshmi became more like an older family figure in my life, which was so comforting in a new city. She truly cared about me and genuinely took the time to get to know me or help me out. I’m so glad CAPAL organized this mentorship program that allowed me to meet such a successful and amazing individual. We meet up quite a few times for food or coffee, I visited her office, and she even took pictures of me at one of my presentations like a parent would! I loved how she wasn’t that much older than me, but was always taking care of me–it felt like I had a friend and mentor at the same time!
In addition to the mentorship program, CAPAL organized a caPAL (or big/little) program. I was fortunate enough to be paired with Shiv Rawal, who was the Secretary on CAPAL’s board. Like with Lakshmi, I was also able to relate to Shiv on so many levels. He was closer in age to me, and has experienced many of the same things in life as well. Shiv helped me out with so many factors–whether it be school/work related or just advice on living in DC. He also helped me open up a lot more and be comfortable with myself and my goals.
It was so comforting to get to know other South Asians like Lakshmi and Shiv, who are pursuing careers in public service. It’s so rare to meet people like them and it was such a privilege to hear their stories and experiences. CAPAL did a fantastic job of setting up this formal mentor program and informal caPAL program with the intern class! I was able to learn so much more about this field, career choices, the role of South Asians, and even just about myself!