Guest post by Emily Gerloff (UW business major, graduating in 2011)
“Nearly everything you do is of no importance, but it is important that you do it.” -Mahatma Gandhi
I was told that India is life-changing. After hearing this on several occasions, I remember thinking to myself: What a strange concept. How can a country be life-changing?
After spending a month on the Half the Sky Exploration Seminar via the UW Foster School of Business, I am still unable to express exactly how India changed my life, but I know with absolute certainty that it did.
During the micro-lending meetings I expected to see poor, impoverished women with sob stories capable of making me instantaneously empty my pockets. I was surprised and relieved to find it was nothing like what I had imagined. These women did not have an ounce of desperation in their voices as they told their stories. They are an absolute testament to the power of hope and determination. They live their lives with an innate sense of duty and purpose I can only compare to an American’s sense of equality and freedom.
Another surprise was how closely the lives of these women parallel my own. The micro-loans they receive are similar to the loans that fund my education. I come from an underprivileged family (by American standards) and would be unable to attend college if it weren’t for the grants and loans provided to me by the government. Although I am occasionally jealous of my fellow students who will graduate with zero debt, it doesn’t change the fact that I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to better my life. I don’t think I am any less deserving of an education just because I was born into a family that couldn’t pay for one. This is a similar stance these women take regarding the micro-loans they receive. They possess gratitude and a humble belief that they deserve the right to prove their worth.
India changed my life. I have seen first-hand the power of hope and determination and won’t deny myself the chance to see how far my own hope and determination will take me.
Emily is a University of Washington student participant in the Foster School of Business study tour during fall quarter 2010. The trip, focused on Women Leadership in India, was organized by Foster faculty member Cate Goethals.