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Alex Polyak, Class of 2015, SAST Major.

Fulbright Scholar, India.


As an eighteen-year-old, I read a book entitled “India after Gandhi” by Ramchandra Guha. The book covered Indian history after independence, and was a truly epic account --and I was truly captivated. On arriving here at Penn I initially took a class on the Contemporary Politics of Indian. Following this, I took other classes and became a Major—and since then, I have never looked back. I feel blessed to have studied India during this particularly transformative period in its modern history. During the Arab Spring some of my friends would comment on the way the Middle East was being critically transformed–and the region would be changed forever. I used to say that I feel the same way about India every single day—I am watching it being transformed.

While studying in the department, the sense of collegiality among the professors in the department was great. The Professors were there for you –in ways that you didn't find in other departments. Of all of the departments that that I took taken classes in, the SASt professors were most vested in the students and student success. In addition, the Graduate Group was also very collegiate. The professors would work together in supervising student dissertations. In comparison, in other departments I feel that the Graduate groups are really there for administrative purposes.

My next steps are to embark on some preliminary research with a Fulbright grant that I secured. I am interested in studying the historical formation of the modern Indian middle class. I feel that India’s future as an economic and global power is going to be decided in the coming decade—and the Indian middle class will be the one that shapes this. The year after, I will study for a Masters degree at the London School of Economics, and then apply for PhD programs thereafter.