Barry Fellowship Alum Spotlight
Arvin Nagarajan, 2007 Barry Fellow
Arvin Nagarajan SM '10 is an Economics and Political Science Major from Michigan. He tutors in elementary schools and is involved with the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project, the Yale Chapter of Nourish International, and Yale intramurals.
His summer on the Barry Fellowship:
A typical day involved waking up at 8, going to breakfast (where I'd eat pineapples and some papaya juice most likely), and then getting dressed for work by 9. In Ecuador, half the days would involve work on the station where we lived, which would mean shrimp harvesting, plant harvesting, planting seeds, or station maintenance. On other days, we would go into the town of Muisne (about 30 minutes on the back of a pickup and then across a river on a ferry) and do sea turtle monitoring, beach cleanup, environmental education for kids, and construction of projects for local schools and hospitals.
On the Galapagos Islands, a typical workday would be working to remove invasive species (cutting them with machetes), and replanting native species. In both places, we would work from 9 a.m. until noon, eat lunch from noon to 12:30 p.m., and then have downtime from 12:30-2 p.m. (usually spent reading or sleeping in hammocks). Then, we would work again from 2-6 p.m., and shower and eat dinner at 6:30. Lunch and dinner almost always involved shrimp, rice and beans in some form.
In Ecuador, I spent most of the time with locals and interacted in Spanish, whereas on the Galapagos, I spent most of my time with European volunteers and interacted primarily in English. I did not get to see much of Ecuador (where it is notoriously difficult to travel), but I did get to spend a week traveling the Galapagos Islands, which was incredible!
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How he chose his destination and project:
I chose my destination by looking for a place with very rare ecosystems in an area of socioeconomic difficulty. This way, I could combine my interests in environmental and development issues. Ecuador provided the best opportunity to do both. Well, my plan for work and research ended up being very different than the work I did (which I would say happens to almost every Barry fellow!). But I planned the type of work I'd be doing to get a first-hand look at the economic and environmental problems facing developing populations.
Reflecting on the experience
It is hard to say what I like most, but I'd have to go with the people and the culture. Though I was in areas where people faced economic hardship, the generosity I received and the joy and happiness I witnessed were unsurpassed. The most important thing I learned is that the most important thing to bring with you in your travels is an open mind and a willingness to experience life. This made my summer experience unforgettable. The summer I spent as a Barry Fellow changed my path at Yale to one much more focused on development issues. It confirmed my ideas of a future in international development and spurred me to seek extracurricular activities that would broaden my horizons.
I definitely liked the Barry dinners the most. They allowed me to hear about others' experiences before I went abroad and also get advice, as well as get to know Mr. and Mrs. Barry. Those dinners really separated the Barry from other fellowships.
I can't thank Mr. and Mrs. Barry and the OFP enough for all that they did for me. My summer in Ecuador was the best of my life and really helped me decide where I want to go in life and how I want to get there. Also, Mr. Barry has served as a mentor and friend ever since the fellowship and is someone I look to for advice and guidance on many issues.
His recommendations for students applying to the Barry Fellowship
I would recommend that students focus on picking a project that truly excites them. By aligning a project with you passions, your proposal and interviews will go much better because your excitement will come across in every aspect.
How he spent his other summers
I spent my freshman summer working for a Senator in DC. My sophomore summer was on the Barry Fellowship. During my junior year summer, I worked in New York for a nonprofit called Endeavor, which supports businesses in developing countries.
His plans after graduation
After graduation, I will be working in Chicago for a consulting firm, Bain & Co. I hope to go to business school after a few years in a social entrepreneurship program.