We ARE… AID Penn State!

The beginning of Fall is a great time of the year! The weather is great, our campus town – State College starts buzzing again with students. The new batch of students bring in a new wave of energy and positivity to the campus every year. It makes everyone reminisce about the first time they came to this country with new dreams, hopes and aspirations. The Indian student community at Penn state goes an extra mile to make sure the new students have a smooth transition to their new home. Students always look forward to a greater social experience, especially in a new town, and AID is an amazing platform for that! It’s where I have met some of the best people I know and it’s fulfilling to know that you are contributing to a good cause back home. This has always been my pitch!

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Football volunteering - after three games

During the fall semester Penn State football is usually in full swing with six to seven home games in the season. Beaver stadium is one of the few, where all the concession stands inside the stadium are staffed by organizations on campus that support non-profit activities, ranging from fraternities raising funds for THON to church groups supporting the local food bank.

AID is in charge of running one such stand where we usually raise around $4000 as commission helping us support one or two additional developmental projects in India. A stand usually consists of a manager, an assistant manager and a host of volunteers. Based on the number of volunteers a group is able to field, stands are assigned in order to maximize profitability. In other words, if a group has 20+ volunteers they would work at a large stand in a profitable location. The more a stand earns the greater the commission awarded to a group.

Below we have a picture taken at our last game - PSU vs San Diego State on the 26th of September.

Football at Penn State is famous in itself - we have people from far away driving in to State College, tailgating, enjoying the game and then driving back. Watching a game is thus on the must-do lists of most visitors and students in the area. The next best thing is volunteering at a concession stand - help raise funds for a charity while watching parts of the game. This is especially true during games against big teams and planned white out games. 

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Side Effects of Food Festival - A Philosophical Journey

Everything we do or do not do in our lives has side effects. Often times, one has a sense of whether the side effect will be positive or negative, but other times it is a shot in the dark. Even if the end result is a good one, the side effects are unclear. They could be great or they could be neutral. Or they could be an outright disaster. Just to illustrate, here is a simple scenario. One day you decide take a bus to campus instead of walking two miles. Upon boarding the bus you meet a wonderful person. The next day again you take the bus again, hoping to sit next to this person. After a time, it becomes a daily ritual. Yes, slowly the relationship develops the way you want it. But, on the other hand, the two-mile walk every morning that kept you in fit shape is suffering now. You can see the pounds inching upward and the waistline outward.

So, what are the side effects of Food Festival? I could list a few hundred, some trivial and mundane, others more profound. To slice it further, even the profound side effects are innumerable, more so during the journey, which is, as Ernest Hemingway famously put it, what matters the most. “It is good to have an end to journey toward,” he said, “but it is the journey that matters, in the end”. In short, here’s a list of side effects I’ve felt on this journey: people, passion, and pleasure or pure joy.

People are the backbone of this journey – students and community coming together for the final show. Preparations begin few months before: menu planning with the community members; sponsorship drive meetings; gathering items for “Kalashetra”; and, finally, the weekend of the event. “People to People” bonding happens during these meetings – lifelong friendships are formed, many friendships turn into partnerships. Somewhere along the journey, these youngsters become part of the family; just short of formal adoption, they become our own. Like your own children they depart, leaving behind tender memories. Hopefully the journey together would not have gone is vain, for in the process we both grow. For the community, it is their chance to be part of a larger goal, to contribute their time and demonstrate their culinary skills. The overwhelming support from the community gives new meaning to “people power,” without which this journey will come to a stand still.

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