Jacob portrait
Jacob Berexa Brentwood, TN College of Arts & Sciences

After high school graduation, Jacob traveled more than 8,000 miles from his home in Tennessee to Jaipur, India. For six weeks, he was immersed in Hindi language and Indian culture.

After this life-changing experience, Jacob was drawn to Penn and specifically the South Asia Studies (SAST) program, where he has been able to learn about one of the world’s oldest civilizations through the lens of language, religion, and culture. Through classes like South Asians in the U.S. to Bollywood & Beyond, to language classes in Hindi and Marathi, Jacob has been able to engage with both breadth and depth in South Asia Studies.


Jacob has been involved in several research projects in educational linguistics at Penn. In his first year, he began working as a research assistant for Dr. Betsy Rymes on her project titled “Citizen Sociolinguistics” at a local high school. He helped facilitate lessons and student-driven projects around language use, attitudes, and communities. This experience inspired him to submatriculate into the Intercultural Communication program at Penn’s Graduate School of Education, giving him an opportunity to have his feet in both undergraduate and graduate communities at Penn.

Global Engagement

At Penn, the Center for the Advanced Study of India (CASI) is the first academic research center in the United States for the study of contemporary India and has a global reputation as a leading U.S. institution for research in South Asia Studies. They also fund summer internships for Penn students. His sophomore summer, Jacob traveled to India as part of a CASI internship and worked at Leap Skills Academy, an education-focused startup in Yamuna Nagar, Haryana. During this time there, he helped implement an online platform for the Leap skills courses.

Center for the Advanced Study of India (CASI)

Since its founding in 1992 within the School of Arts & Sciences (SAS), CASI has continued to uphold Penn's global reputation as a leading U.S. institution of research in South Asian studies and scholarship on India. Through workshops, visiting scholars, seminars, conferences, and an online quarterly publication, CASI engages in relevant research that focuses on contemporary issues facing India and nurtures student interest in India.

Learn more about CASI

Culture & Identity

For Jacob, studying Hindi was much more than just learning a new vocabulary. It opened him up to the cultural wealth of Indian music, film, religion, and history.

His stutter is also a part of Jacob’s identity, and he has felt truly inspired by the other smart, successful, and brave people with speech disorders he has met at Penn who have never let anything stand in their way.

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