As a senior at NC State, Pranav Kemburu ’19 has been able to focus on a range of experiences to enhance his undergraduate career. From study abroad to internships, and from an alternative spring break to his Civic Engagement Initiative (CEI), he is well prepared for a lifelong commitment to making a positive impact in society. Here, he reflects on such opportunities:
My NASA internship was my first real technical internship, and I worked with seniors and grad students as a freshman. It showed me what public sector research and development work was and how much policy can affect research institutions. My mentors that summer were amazing; one of them was a previous student of one my Park Faculty Mentors and supported my thirst for knowledge. I was given every opportunity to learn more about the work being done at NASA and to improve my skills as an engineer. I was able to live outside of NC for longer than a couple of weeks for the first time, and strike my way out independently (or as independent as a student can be) in the city of Cleveland. During my time there, I explored the cultural aspects – Cleveland has the second largest theater district in the country – and [received] my Amateur Radio License. With this license, I rebooted the amateur radio club with my Park Faculty Mentor at NC State the following year.
Alternative Spring Break:
The Timmy Global Health: Ecuador was my first experience with global health and in South America. It gave me a chance to see the public health system in a different country, and how lacking resources are in developing countries [around] the world. One of the biggest things I struggled with before and during the trip was the concept of “voluntourism” and whether [or not] what we were doing was right. One of the moments that [affected] me the most was having one of the local doctors on the trip respond to that concern with the needs of those being treated. Timmy Global Health is more of a sustainable organization because they provide consistent treatment to patients through rotating doctors and students. I’ve had several conversations with peers afterward about [my concern]. The concept of having skills and going somewhere to help seems like the most reasonable way to do things, but I also wonder if the motivation and investment of students in learning and gaining these experiences increased the likelihood of a trip like this happening.
Study abroad was a great experience to take a break from the hustle and bustle of school. I was given the opportunity to live in a city in Asia immersed in the eastern culture. This was the first time I had spent a significant amount of time outside of the US (about half a year) and actually lived somewhere. The experience was slightly different because the time was temporary and I was an outsider, but it was interesting being in a homogenous nation where there are people who are culturally more similar to me than most of America. I think being abroad in Asia made me recognize the value of having a community where there are people who have shared experiences from childhood in understanding and supporting one another. I also had the opportunity to take economics, engineering, and Korean classes [while] there. I learned about global economics from an international perspective and got to see how [many] people from different countries saw the US. I also had the opportunity to travel to Thailand, Vietnam, India, New Zealand, and Australia during that half a year.
I spent a solid amount of my junior year in a variety of agricultural activities that I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t been at NC State. My CEI was working with the Well Fed Community Garden and developing a renewable energy workshop. We volunteered at the garden a couple of times throughout the year and [were able to] learn how an urban garden operates. It was really cool seeing how it was supported by a local business, Irregardless Café, and how the organization interacted with the community by providing these workshops, [as well as the] opportunity for a community garden. I also took a culinary botany class that fall and [learned] about different plants from around the world, how they’re used in different cuisines, and the cultural significance of each of these plants. We got to try different dishes with these plants every week and took a couple of field trips to H-Mart and a nature walk to learn more directly about the plants.
That [same] year I also worked with the Haiti Goat Project (HGP) through the Social Innovation Fellows program at State. During the school year, we worked on incorporating HGP as its own non-profit independent from NC State and developed a marketing plan. At the beginning of the following summer, another student, the head of HGP, the social innovation head, and I traveled to Haiti to deliver goat supplies and to get an on-the-ground view of the organization. It was incredible to see an international non-profit that is largely run by Haitians [firsthand]. The head of the program in the states is an agricultural professor who provides expertise. It seems like a lot of the work in the U.S. for the long run will be raising capital and awareness while [Haitians who understand the needs of the community do most of the work in Haiti].
The biggest influencer from the Park experience has been the community. The community gives me peers that I consider my closest friends, who pursue opportunities in the government or similar jobs at the cost of personal wealth. It’s also been great to chat with alumni and to hear about their experiences. Park alums offer a unique perspective of people following unorthodox paths to get where they are today. This gives me the confidence to hold off on conventional paths of success to find a fulfilling job and lifestyle.