Aditi was born in India and moved to the United States when she was 10 years old. She says she always wanted to do something with an international scope, because that's how she grew up. She says that though her family had a comfortable life in India, her parents chose to move to the U.S. because they respected the economic opportunities available in this country. When it came time to pick a college, Aditi wanted to learn more about this system for which her parents uprooted themselves, so the idea of a business program was appealing to her. "At the same time," she says, "I had that childhood pipedream of going back and making life better for all the people I left behind in India - making all this money and donating it to help people…"
Where she lived in Missouri, Aditi says that she was a bit sheltered and didn't know much about college programs. A friend told her about the website, collegeboard.com, so she logged on and searched for "international relations plus business." When she found the Huntsman Program, she thought it sounded wonderful, but she'd never heard of Penn. Her parents had always encouraged her to find the best possible institution for whatever she chose to study. When she told her parents that she had found the perfect program but the university sounded "a bit shady," Aditi recalls that her mother laughed uncontrollably, explained Penn's prestige, then told her to apply. Aditi decided that it was meant to be, applied to the Program and was accepted.
Aditi says that being in the Program has helped her refine that childhood pipedream of "saving the world." It's taught her what it actually takes to save the world, and given her access to the set of skills necessary to do so. "My assumptions back then were wrong, but had I known then what I know now, I still would have chosen this Program, and with a lot more enthusiasm!"
A Balanced Education
Aditi has enjoyed being able to take both business classes, which have been very practical and taught her "how to get ahead," with classes on international relations and human rights. "The combined perspective is very balanced one," says Aditi. Her favorite class so far has been Finance 101, Macroeconomics, which she says helped her to understand her parents' perspective. At the same time, Aditi was thrilled to discover Wharton's Business and Public Policy department, which she says is "people-focused" and therefore a perfect choice for her concentration.
In addition to her classes, Aditi has been active in Model UN, the Wharton Indian Students Association, and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Her work at the SBDC, helping local Philadelphia business owners, has been particularly rewarding. Aditi is always looking for the human component in her business classes. At first, she felt that she was learning equations but wasn't seeing how they could change anybody's life. So, she signed up to work at the SBDC, where she was able to actually affect people directly by helping them with their small business. Aditi liked it so much that she decided to work there both part-time during the school year and full-time during her freshman summer.
Internship in India
Aditi has been heavily involved in Penn International Business Volunteers, a student club which organizes consulting internships for nonprofit organizations. During the summer after her freshman year, the club helped Aditi find an internship in Mumbai. She worked for an organization called Video Volunteers, which provided technical film-training to youth in underdeveloped areas who couldn't afford college. After 5 months of technical training, the young people would return to their communities, in some cases slums, to make social documentaries on issues of importance to them.
During her first day on the job, Aditi learned about a documentary that had been made about public toilets. She was surprised by the topic at first, because it had never struck her as a major social problem. Aditi went with the filmmakers to their community and learned just how significant the issue was. Public bathrooms that had been provided by the government were so dirty that there was a high rate of disease and infection associated with them. One of the first people Aditi met in the community was a 16year-old girl who had been sexually assaulted in an isolated part of town, where she went to avoid using the public restrooms. Though Aditi had lived in India for ten years, she says "I had never seen that side of India."
Aditi was eager to do what she could to help and discovered that the organization needed help with their marketing strategy. In order for the documentaries to have an impact, it's important that people actually watch them. So, Aditi used her business skills to help them develop a marketing plan, and she also helped out by subtitling the videos in English, so that they could be understood by people and organizations in other countries, which might be able to help.
After returning from her own internship, Aditi continued to be involved in Penn International Business Volunteers and took on the responsibility of scoping projects for the club. She was in charge of 20 students and together they organized the most internships that the club had ever had available. The club is only a few years old, but it's growing and is now partnered with alumni, professional consultants who advise the student interns on their projects.