We sit down with Kaavya Venkat, the current president of the Indian Students Association at Berkeley, to get a peek into the community.
What are some ISA initiatives that have resonated most with you and what sort of collaborations does ISA have with other communities/ organizations?
“ISA was my first family away from home. Being an out-of-state student was pretty challenging, but I found my community within ISA, and the people were very welcoming. We bonded over retreats and event-planning. Things would get stressfull especially since we plan large scale events for the entire Undergraduate South Asian community, but having a solid support system working with you always eases the tension, and makes the process super fun. Holi is our largest event with over 3000+ students, faculty, and family members from the bay attending. It was super intimidating at first, but putting together one of the most iconic events of the year is super gratifying. Even though ISA had to wake up at 6 AM to start set-up for Holi, we bonded so much from it, and it is truly an unforgettable experience.
In terms of collaboration, we have always been open to teaming up with any South Asian org on campus. Raas-Garba, our first event of each year is co-hosted by us and UCB Indus, another South Asian org. We have also worked with Asha for Education at Berkeley to help raise funds for their non-profit projects that help schools throughout India. Moving forward we are working with our South Asian Student representative in our Student Government on creating a platform for talking about racial injustice and the current BLM movement. “
Why did you choose to be president of ISA?
“I chose to be president because I wanted to see ISA grow more. We have been a very Hindu-centric event planning organization, and I saw our potential to do more with our platform. I have already had this position for a year, and have seen a lot of change, so I am very proud of us. We tried to plan a new event to focus on more marginalized South Asian voices. Our goal was to create a South Asian art gala to give members of the community a chance to be more involved. This would be our first non-Hindu event, which is a big step in the right direction to make ISA more inclusive and diverse. Unfortunately the pandemic cut our time short and we were not able to proceed with this event. ISA is my family, and leading them has been such an honor. I think with more time we can achieve so many other goals we have to make our organization expand more.“
What is the best part of the ISA community?
“I keep saying this, but I truly believe that ISA has become my second home at Cal. Some of my strongest friendships are from ISA, and everyone is here for you when you need them the most, even if they graduate. “
How do you think the ISA experience contributes to your student/social experience + your pursuits beyond college?
“I think being in ISA has made me less apathetic to global geopolitical issues in general. I was never aware of issues beyond America, but being apart of a diverse group of college kids from all over the world has changed me for the better. In terms of social life, ISA has always been a social club, and we put on some of the littest events, so it’s always an opportunity to meet new people!“
How do you think the If you could tell your high school self one thing about your college journey what would it be?
“Asking for help is so important. Always seek out advice from older students. They have been in your shoes super recently, and can help out so much!“
Have further questions for ISA? Visit their website or ask them below and Iris will get you the specific answers you need.
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