Brandeis has taught me many things in the past three years that encouraged me to apply and succeed in Ashoka.
In my sophomore year at Brandeis, I made the decision to major in Economics and Sociology as I love both subjects and I thought they could be an interesting combination. In my junior year, I developed a strong interest in psychology, and though many people may think it’s too late to dig into another subject, my academic advisor convinced me to pursue my passion and now I have a minor in Psychology. Besides all these, I also got to take a lot of other courses outside of my field of studies such as music, history and philosophy. The diversity of the courses that Brandeis provides and the flexibility of its academic curriculum have encouraged me to explore so many different fields, and this allowed me to look at and understand Ashoka’s work from various perspectives.
Among all my major and minor courses, the Economics courses taught me ways different markets operate and quantitative skills regarding conducting scientific researches; the Sociology courses taught me the structures of societies in different cultures and critical thinking skills such that I have formed my own ways of critically engaging with and building on the existing texts; the Psychology courses taught me the scientific explanation behind human behavior and reasoning skills in the way that I should always look beneath the surface of things. All of these knowledges and skills are not only fundamental to my internship at Ashoka, but they are also significant in the way that they allowed me to become a more capable and well-rounded person.
Besides all the academic courses, I found the variety of study abroad programs Brandeis offers extremely valuable. Last year, I studied abroad in Nepal for a semester, and it was such an eye-opener for me. I got to live with a Nepali family for 2 months, learned about Nepali cultures and traditions and engaged in various local events. I also interned at a local non-profit organization called Tewa and learned a lot about gender inequality and women’s right in Nepal. My experience at Tewa played an important role in why I wanted to pursue the field of social justice and why I applied to Ashoka this summer. Since Ashoka is a global organization with fellows from over 92 countries, the multicultural perspectives I gained from my study abroad experience helped me a lot when it came to understanding the organization’s scope of work and the role my project plays in it.
I want to end this blog by sharing a theory I learned and really liked from one of my sociology classes. In his book “The Burnout Society”, sociologist Byung-Chul Han suggested that “Unlimited Can is the positive modal verb of achievement society. Its plural form—the affirmation, “Yes, we can”—epitomizes a society’s positive orientation.” To explain it further, when people are driven by the word “can” instead of “should”, they become “actors”. This means that they are able to act independently and make their own free choices; they are capable of making changes, and they are part of the changes themselves. If each individual becomes an “actor”, the society will move toward a positive direction. I think this theory precisely coincides with Ashoka’s “Everyone a Changemaker” theory of change, and the word “can” is exactly what drove me to join Ashoka this summer.
– Jessie Zhu