Rina Patel, Founder of Aahana

Rina Patel
Hometown: Phoenixville, PA
Year: Pre-Junior
Major/Minors/Concentrations: Marketing and Legal Studies, Minors in Public Health and International Area Studies
Her Campus: Why did you decide to come to Drexel?
Rina Patel: My sister started at Drexel when I was in 8th grade. The first time I came to drop my sister off with my Mom I knew this was the school I wanted to go to. Now about seven and a half years later, here I am! 
What's your favorite thing about life at Drexel?

I love being in Philly. There is always so much to do and so many things to see! The opportunities are endless and we are surrounded by several universities that contribute to our overall college experience. 

Please tell me about your non-profit organization, Aahana.What inspired you to start Aahana? 

My parents were born and raised in poverty in India. My mom was pulled out of school when she was in 7th grade and was married to my dad at 15 years old. I see how my parents struggled through poverty and gave my sisters a life here in the United States. When I go to India, I see how bright these kids are and how much potential they have. The only thing they need is the inspiration and the resources. It has always reminded me of how much potential my parents had growing up and when I see those kids, it reminds me of the childhood my parents had.

I first started going to India when I was 13 years old and wanted to develop a stronger relationship with my grandmothers. I had only seen my mom’s mom a handful of times, and wanted to be able to spend more time with her before she passed away. Then, when I was 15 I started to come back to the States and have this nagging feeling. All I remember is sitting in the kitchen after coming back to India (I forget if it was a few months after or right after I came back) and was having a conversation with my dad. The only thing I remember is this feeling I had. It was this nagging feeling that made me want to get up and run back to India and do something, do anything. The feeling made me realize this: I couldn’t continue to come back to the States and live my normal life without doing something about the children in India. Ever since then, I haven’t been able to shake that feeling and even until this day it stays with me and it’s what keeps me going. [Aahana partners with a school in India and provides students with the resources they need to get an education. Click here for more information.]

What is your favorite thing about your non-profit work? 
I love spending time with the kids and learning about everything about them. They each have come from such different backgrounds, have gone through some crazy things that I could never imagine, but still have these amazing dreams. 
Do you have future non-profit related goals?
Yes, I would like to do research and eventually publish some of my own findings. Not just statistics or anything like that, but more of something that relates to the experiences of the kids.
Why did you decide on your course of study?

I am currently double majoring in Marketing and Legal Studies (though this may change) with a double minor in Public Health and International Area Studies. It seems like it is all over the place, but I picked each one in hopes of focusing on a different aspect of Aahana. I feel as though Marketing is important to know because establishing a brand and promoting the organization in the appropriate way is one of the most important aspects of running an organization. I picked Legal Studies because I wanted to have a law background or at least some knowledge on how everything works so that I’d be able to figure out some legal matters on my own without having to get my lawyer involved. International Area Studies focuses on a wide range of fields that educates me on the real world issues that Aahana hopes to attack. Public Health dives into my interest in preventative illnesses. I want broaden my studies and focus on all aspects that will help Aahana grow to become a better foundation.

Please tell me a little bit about your career goals.

I just finished a co-op at a technology company called SAP and am continuing on part time in a global intern role in London. I hope to further my career globally and eventually have my own businesses. Most of my long term goals involve sustainable businesses and pairing those initiatives with Aahana. 

What is your ideal job?
Hm! That is a tough question. Ideally, I see myself going to India to continue doing more work full time. 
What sorority are you in?
Delta Zeta  
What is your favorite thing about being in a sorority?
The fact that I have a family of hundred girls who I can turn to in an instant. 
How do you balance your academic life with your other projects?
It's been trial and error. Between managing my time between working part time throughout college, Aahana, school, Delta Zeta, and the other activities I have been involved with, it has been an adventure. I don't know where I would be if I didn't have two planners and two different calendars. I try and prioritize and always make sure I'm taking time to go out with my friends and do things a kid my age should be doing. 
Do you participate in any other activities at Drexel?
Freshman year (at the time I was founding Aahana), I founded the chapter of a business organization called DECA. During the spring of my sophomore year I decided to step down, knowing that I wasn't able to commit the time to make both Aahana and DECA be successful organizations. I am currently working with another LeBow students to form another program within Lebow which should be out within the next few months!
What do you do in your spare time?
I love running and reading! I try to carve out time before bed to read for an hour and also go running each evening or morning. I make it a priority to stay fit as well as read as much as I can. I use my weekends to catch up on work when I need to, but besides that I make sure to spend that time with my parents, family, and friends.  
Do you have any other hobbies or interests?
I love traveling as well! I just finished a term abroad in London and am currently traveling around Europe for some time before heading to India. 
Tell me about your study abroad experience.
A few weeks ago I finished my study abroad program in London. Throughout my program I travelled to The Netherlands, Scotland, Ireland, Hungary, Spain, France, And Wales. I have been in Italy for the past week traveling to Venice, Florence, Rome, Salerno, and now ending in Naples.  Tomorrow I will be in Geneva, Switzerland before heading to Vienna, Austria and Prague, Czech Republic. Before heading to India for Aahana, I'll be spending a week and a half in London exploring the city and working with SAP. The experiences and people I came across have really made an impact on my life and the decisions I will continue to make throughout my life.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Hm that's also a tough one! I usually like to see where life takes me, but I would be lying if I told you I haven't had a plan since I was in middle school! After graduation I would like to spend time traveling around the world and doing more work for Aahana. I would eventually like to get in some experience while working towards growing Aahana. Eventually, if not in 10 years, I would like to see myself managing Aahana full time.