Aysha Bagchi Profile
Aysha Bagchi (Texas & Pembroke 2012) is currently pursuing a B.A. in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the University of Oxford. She holds a B.A. in Philosophy and History, and an Honours degree in Ethics in Society from Stanford University.
Rhodes Project: What is currently playing on your iPod?
Aysha Bagchi: I’ve been listening to Adele pretty regularly for months now, and I’m also cycling through a lot of songs by Amos Lee at the moment.
Rhodes Project: What was the last book you read for pleasure?
Aysha Bagchi: It wasn’t exactly for pleasure, but I recently read The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James. He was a psychologist and philosopher. It’s really a book that examines human psychology, issues for people in moments of crisis, issues of despair and anxiety.
Rhodes Project: When you were a kid, what did you aspire to be later in life?
Aysha Bagchi: When I was in elementary school, I’m told I said I wanted to be a soccer player (I had big posters of Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain up during the 1999 Women’s World Cup). When I got older, I wanted to be a diplomat for a while, or something else that would let me travel. Then when I was in high school, I had a fantastic U.S. History teacher and that helped spark a more serious interest in American history and constitutional law. I also loved novels, so writing always hung in the background.
Rhodes Project: Tell me a little bit about what you are studying now.
Aysha Bagchi: I’m doing a second Bachelors degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. I studied History and Philosophy in my undergrad so I have a bit of a background in Philosophy already. I’m looking to do some things I didn’t do before as well as get a deeper grounding in areas I’m familiar with. This year I studied Aristotle’s Ethics, Macroeconomics, International Relations and Political Theory. I’ll be doing Microeconomics and the Philosophy of Kant next term.
Rhodes Project: What has surprised you most about your time at Oxford so far?
Aysha Bagchi: I spent one term here during my undergrad, so I knew a little bit about what I was in for when it came to living and studying in Oxford, but I was a little nervous about how I would find the community, especially the Rhodes community. I expected to meet a lot of impressive people, but it has been extremely comforting to find most everyone to be down-to-earth, interested in talking about all sorts of things, and really earnest about finding meaning and purpose through what they do. And the graduate students at my college, Pembroke, are basically a diverse set of misfits, so that has been a great home for me.
Rhodes Project: What advice would you give to your sixteen-year-old self?
Aysha Bagchi: When I was sixteen I didn’t spend nearly enough time hanging out with people my age. I thought I was ready to leave high school and move on. It took going to college for me to enjoy that. I would tell myself that I was missing out.
Rhodes Project: Is there anything that consistently frustrates you in life?
Aysha Bagchi: I get very frustrated when I hear public issues being discussed in terms of the private interests involved or simply the political advantages at stake, rather than the central moral questions that are at the heart of those issues. I think that it intensifies the battle you have to wage on these things. Not only do you have to agree about the merits of the question, but you also have to decide first that you want to debate the question based on its merits. Sometimes you find people who don’t seem to care if we are doing the right thing or not
Rhodes Project: What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
Aysha Bagchi: When I was 19, just after my freshman year in college, I spent a summer teaching English in two villages in western Hungary. It was the first time I went travelling completely on my own. I didn’t know the native language, and I taught four classes a day to students ranging from 5 years old to 65 years old. I was a nervous public speaker, and I felt completely responsible for myself and the students. I also spent a couple of spring breaks during college at the US-Mexico border in Arizona, studying immigration and doing service related to immigration. In an emotional way, that was tough for me, to go from the privileged environment of college to being in the desert, spending the night outside freezing in a tent and imagining those out in the desert, where hundreds die each year.
Rhodes Project: What do you do to relax?
Aysha Bagchi: I spend time with friends. When I need alone time, I go for walks out in nature. I like to read and watch movies.
Rhodes Project: What inspires you and why?
Aysha Bagchi: I suppose that people inspire me most. Those tend to be people I know personally, as knowing them gives me a chance to really see and understand who they are. My father is from India, and I go there nearly every year to visit family. Because of the extreme poverty in India, I can’t help but be inspired by a lot of people I know there who have overcome incredible odds, though I can think of similar examples even in the US and other places. I guess I feel most inspired by role models who show me the kind of person I want to be, or by instances of progress that help me to believe that better things are possible.
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