coffee date #10 with sanjana duggirala
undergrad @ Princeton, Yoga lover, sociology major, student gov queen, matcha drinker
me: lavender vanilla latte with almond milk | sanjana: matcha honey latte with almond milk
location: sakrid, new jersey
Sanjana D is an incredibly poised individual. She’s chic, drinks matcha tea, and is an overall queen.
Sanjana is now a senior at Princeton (about to graduate in 2 weeks, woot woot 🥳). I remember she came to one of the many weekend family get-togethers when she was still a freshman. A group of us girls sat in a corner on the staircase and we listened intently as Sanjana narrated hilarious stories from her freshman year. She got me all hyped for my future college days (and here I am finishing my freshman year on ZOOM).
At another family gathering, we ended up doing a quick Blogilates workout in the host’s home because….well, why not? Sanjana, similar to coffee date #8, is a holistic fitness freak. She doesn’t only workout for her body, but also does other forms, such as Yoga and Meditation, to center her mind as well.
What I admire the most about Sanjana is her willingness to share. I remember texting her a couple years ago and and asking her how she balances fitness with college. She replied promptly and called me to explain her outlook on fitness and how she makes time for it in college.
Honestly, what tempted me to have a coffee date with her is the fact that I knew that I could learn a lot from Sanjana, whether it be her leadership skills, outlook on education, or just lifestyle tips.
- Effortless profession.
The best part of these coffee dates is realizing that a lot of them have similar, yet different values and accompanying stories to share. Hearing them get repeated enables me to naturally encapsulate those ideologies.
Sanjana talked about the idea of effortless profession – the idea that one pretends to have it all together, but is a total mess internally.
As a Princeton student, Sanjana said that she too adopted that mentality her freshman year, when she tried to make it seem like she had everything together and attempted to be friends with absolutely everyone. She quickly realized that when we try to imbibe ourselves in trying to have A LOT of friends, we end up lonely at the end of the day.
Currently, Sanjana says:
“I am definitely not friends with everyone now, but I realized that I don’t need everyone. I have my closest friends and they are all I really need.” – Sanjana D, 2021
With new friends who she can truly be herself with – no longer needing to change herself to fit into a several friend groups – comes a sense of confidence as well. Obviously confidence does not entirely stem from the people around you, but they can play a large role.
- Confidence is an art.
Confidence is something that is learned and re-learned, tweaked and re-tweaked. It’s a perpetual process.
Sanjana described that she had the mentality where she used to think that everyone was judging her and was a culprit of overthinking. However, now she realizes that no one has the time or the effort to spend energy to judge a random person. If they do, then they really are supremely useless in life.
“I got comfortable with being loud and taking up space.” – Sanjana D, 2021
One way Sanjana developed that confidence is by being a part of Student Government (SG). I thought that you have to be immensely proactive and political to be in SG, so I always steered clear. However, Sanjana said that SG actually enabled her to get a fresh start and confidently socialize with any group of people.
A major part of confidence is also having the ability to talk about yourself and your accomplishments without feeling guilty. THIS was a huge epiphany for me during this date! For example, Sanjana shared her experiences during her early Business school interviews. When interviewers asked her questions about her accomplishments, she’d start by saying “We” or “My team and I.” Yes, it very well may have been a group effort, but she surely played a large role in whatever it is that is listed on her resume.
“Just say ‘I'” – Sanjana D, 2021
As a result, she realized that she needs to start describing her accomplishments by saying “I did this,” “I organized….,” “I created….” Using “I”s is not selfish or arrogant if you’re doing it for the purpose of truly trying to convey to the other person everything that you’ve done. It’s crucial to be able to give yourself enough credit in a world full of criticism – we must be our biggest cheerleaders.
- Educational systems are innately prejudiced and biased.
I am one of the six DEI (Diversity, Equality, and Inclusivity) interns for my college’s Psychology Department, so I’ve been thinking a lot about the prejudice and micro-aggressions, if not blatant racism, that occurs on not just our campus but in universities in general. Eager to learn about Sanjana’s perception of DEI and racism on Princeton’s campus, I asked her to discuss her thoughts.
She agreed that racism exists in every university. The interesting thing she shared, though, was the class difference that is present at Princeton. Princeton is an Ivy League university, known for stupendous academics and sports. However, like any college, Princeton too has its drawbacks. The main one, according to Sanjana, are the social class divides.
She told me that the common theme at Princeton is that the rich students often have majors in the Humanities department. This is because they usually know that they have to take over a family business or just get a college degree and proceed to live off their parents’ money, so a Humanities major is the easiest route for them. On the other hand, the underprivileged students tend to be science majors, because they need a degree that comes with more work opportunities.
As a result, the rich students are gaining higher GPA’s because the Humanities subjects are often a bit easier than the sciences, while the underprivileged students are receiving lower GPA’s. Inevitably, the system favors the rich because their grades are automatically superior to the underprivileged student’s, oppressing the chances for that student after graduation.
This was entirely new to me, but once Sanjana talked about it, it made sense! Oftentimes, the prejudices and discrimination that occurs on campuses happens behind the scenes and go unnoticed because none of us take the time to analyze the events that are unfolding in front of us.
Additionally, Sanjana also talked about Princeton’s exclusivity. Princeton supposedly has societies you need to be in, in order to be a part of the larger group (similar to Greek life, but somewhat different. Think Gossip Girl era lol). With such exclusivity comes a need to make others feel inferior.
- Universities need to invest more in Mental Health Services.
Almost every accredited university has Mental Health Services (MHS), where students can meet with counselors to talk about their mental health. Sanjana talked about how Princeton’s MHS is severely understaffed causing counselors to only be able to meet with students once a month. I would say the same applies to my college, and probably a majority of others.
Imagine going to a therapist to seek advice and learn coping mechanisms for your problems, just for that person to tell you that they’re too busy and can only meet you once a month so you’ll have to fend for yourself until then.
College adds a tremendous amount of pressure for many students. Getting impacted with such pressure at a young age severely damages students’ mental health, so why are universities not making an extra effort to accommodate better MHS?
Sanjana noted that Princeton spends a ton of money on architecture and ensuring that their campus looks appealing to folks, but does not spend nearly as much money for a student’s mental health. Who cares how the molding of a building looks if the students at the university are so depressed and are given no ways to cope?
- Physicians are pawns in the global healthcare industry.
Sanjana started off at Princeton as a pre-med student. She basically took all of her pre-med reqs, but by the end of her sophomore year she realized that she did not want to be a pawn in such a vast industry. Similar to the educational systems (and basically any sector of any industry), the healthcare industry is also prejudiced. Take a look at some of the stats below reported by Medical News Today.
Though physicians have the power to voice their opinions and advocate for oppressed patients, they don’t have enough power to change things on a macro scale. Hence why Sanjana decided that she wants to change the healthcare industry from the top-down.
There are numerous changes that can be implemented to make the healthcare industry more inclusive and promote anti-racism. One easy example Sanjana was explaining to me was hospital redesigning, where we can design hospitals to make them less prison-like and more hotel-like to allow for patients to feel more comfortable.
As a result of these situations, Sanjana decided that going to business school is the best route for her. She realized that the only way to improve patient care is to understand the mentalities of those who endorse such oppressiveness.
“I need to learn to be one of them in order to create change.” – Sanjana D, 2021
I was in awe and still am as I am reflecting on our conversation because when I think healthcare, I immediately think doctors. However, she made me realize that healthcare is a lot more than I allowed myself to think. It’s a business and a game, in which doctors often contribute in and are also used for.
“You will do well in whatever you’re curious about.” – Sanjana D, 2021
I LOVE that she was able to notice this and not be afraid to make the switch for herself. It’s so hard to change from something that we’ve always wanted to another passion, so I commend her on that!
- Yoga and Mediation
Sanjana got more involved with Yoga and meditation recently. I admire anyone who gets into these 2 activities because I have failed to do so numerous times as I am an impatient soul.
Sanjana said that her mind only fully wakes after she has had time meditate in the morning. That’s incredible! Finding that moment in the mornings to connect your mind, body, and soul is an invigorating experience that I want to one day feel as well.
Through her Yoga practice she learned the difference between reacting and responding. There’s this beautiful quote I found that pretty much sums up this difference.
- Only chase things that match your energy.
Sanjana’s one big life lesson to me was to only chase the things in life that match my vibrational energy. There is a certain energy that we all have and continue to release into the Universe. The Universe, in return, makes certain things happen to us to match that energy. This is pretty much the core of Manifestation: you only receive what you put into the Universe.
“When your energy matches with your passion, you will no longer feel drained when you do work.” – Sanjana D, 2021
This coffee date was quite different compared to the others as we progressed from having an intellectual conversation about the cruelties of the world to finding ways to discover ourselves in such a messed up world. It was rejuvenating and encouraging 🙂