The Best Cohort I Could’ve Asked For

Andrew Chen - India


March 10, 2019

Hey there! Long time no see 🙂 About 6 months ago, I left Seattle knowing little of the journey ahead of me. Sitting here now, with those 6 months having brought truly countless new memories and experiences, I finally feel like I have a grasp of the lessons and takeaways I’ll be leaving India with. I want to record these lessons here on this blog as I’ve learned them both so that others can understand a little of what exactly has changed about me during my time here, as well as to prove to myself that I understand them well enough to clearly articulate them. These are certainly personal lessons and by no means universal truths, but I feel they’re what’s most worthy of sharing with others in my blog since they’re what I value most about this year – besides the memories that taught me and helped shape them.

But before all of that, a lot has happened in these past 6 months, so I figured it would be good to first share a little bit in the next few days about what exactly my life has been like here, in my numerous identities as a foreigner, a Global Citizen Year (GCY) fellow, a Teach for India teaching assistant, a member of a host family, and many more.

I’ll begin with GCY, in terms of the other fellows and staff members alongside me on this journey. We all met at the Stanford University campus for a week of introductory seminars termed “Global Launch,” and although the sessions were all very powerful and worthwhile, it was the other fellows that stood out to me even more. They were immensely thoughtful, passionate, and talented, and they all had incredible stories and well-thought-out ideas that they confidently shared. Because approximately 40% of them were from other countries, it was also the first time I interacted extensively with people whose life experiences and worldviews were often vastly different from mine, and it was definitely an eyeopening experience. Although we only had a week together, it definitely felt like I knew many them for longer than that because of the depth of the conversations that we had.

Of those 150+ fellows at Stanford, there were 22 others who would take the flight with me to India, and together we became the “India cohort.” Though I knew little about most of them at the time we came, they have since become some of the closest friends and confidantes, and they truly understand me and my experience better than anyone else here. Of these, 12 have been with me in Pune until today, and it is them who I’ve grown the closest to because of the amount of time we’ve spent together. We’ve been with each other through all of our highs and lows, our struggles and our successes, and I can confidently say they’ve been the best support system I possibly could’ve wished for. They always give me a compassionate and nonjudgmental ear whenever I need to talk about anything, and their unrivaled companionship has created many of my most favorite memories here – and it often feels like every passing day with them becomes a new favorite memory. I really can’t overstate the joy they’ve brought me these past few months, nor be thankful enough for their contribution to my confidence and self-growth. Though I don’t have time to talk about all of them here in this blog, I’m sure you’ll hear about many of them when I return, and I hope to get a chance to host them sometime when they visit Seattle (and I certainly hope to visit them around the country, and the world, as well).

Besides the other fellows, the staff has also been an amazing resource for any questions or concerns I’ve had here, and it really feels like they’re a part of this cohort with us. In Pune, we have 5 staff members staying with us: Archana, the country director who oversees all GCY activities in India; Thuguri (who’s in charge of me) and Anand, team leaders who manage the host family arrangement and apprenticeship for 6 fellows each; Suchi, who organizes all the logistical details; and Pratiksha, our Hindi teacher (who’s not technically GCY staff, but still). There are also 2 staff members in Hyderabad, which has another 7 fellows. Together, they made the transition into India super smooth and their approachability has led me to never hesitate to ask them for local advice. Though I only see them in person roughly once every month during our cohort reconnects or 1 on 1 check-ins, they always manage to make our meetings a blast in addition to providing great leadership. The one person I do see quite often is Pratiksha, who holds Hindi class for us twice a week. She’s been so much more than just a Hindi teacher to the fellows though; she’s also an amazing friend and adviser who we love talking to and spending time with even when there’s no Hindi class. Although she’s only 29 years old, she’s one of the wisest people I’ve ever met, and I’m definitely grateful (a sentiment I know many of the other fellows share) for how much she’s added to my GCY experience.


The entire GCY 2018-2019 India cohort.

The fellows and staff here with me in Pune.

All in all, I truly couldn’t think of better friends, or a better cohort, to have been spending the past few months with. Tomorrow I’ll share a bit about my host family and apprenticeship arrangement, and tell you about some of these other amazing people who have also played critical roles in making this year the wonderful experience it has been so far!

Andrew

Andrew Chen