Culture Shock and Comfort in Patana
Acksharaa Balaji’s (Grad’18) transition from the familiar confines of Bangkok Patana to the vibrant streets of Boston to attend Berklee College of Music was far from smooth. She candidly admitted to feeling a cultural shock and a longing for the comforts of home, particularly the food. It’s not unusual for students to grapple with such shifts, and Acksharaa’s experiences only highlight the unique challenges of studying abroad. Yet, she credits Bangkok Patana for helping her adapt quickly to this new environment.
Finding Her Calling in Music Therapy
Despite the initial hurdles, Acksharaa’s journey at Berklee held pleasant surprises. She began shedding her apprehensions about pursuing a career in music, realising that many of her peers were on similar quests. Her turning point came when she delved into music therapy, a highly selective programme. She underwent a rigorous application process and was one of the fortunate 21 students out of 50 to make the cut. Music therapy’s transformative power became evident to her, igniting her passion for making music a healing force for others.
“Imagine a world without music,” she mused, highlighting the importance of soundtracks and melodies in our lives. Acksharaa’s internship experiences in healthcare settings, including hospitals, community centers, daycares and se‐ nior citizens’ homes, emphasised the profound impact of music on people’s well‐being. Her insights were further deepened by her exposure to telehealth during the pandemic, demonstrating the accessibility and adaptability of music therapy.
Mastering Music Therapy
Acksharaa’s pursuit of a Master’s degree in music therapy isn’t just about furthering her career. It’s about contributing to a discourse she holds dear – making music therapy more culturally inclusive. She envisions a future where everyone, regardless of their cultural background, can connect with the music used in their therapy. Her aim is to establish herself as a prominent voice advocating for cultural diversity in the field, emphasizing the importance of music that resonates with each individual’s unique experiences.
The young musician is also passionate about research and intends to explore the intricate relationship between neuroscience and music, using functional MRI systems. Her thirst for knowledge and innovation knows no bounds.
Relaxation and Reflection
For relaxation, Acksharaa is an advocate for the simple pleasures in life. She cherishes her naps and takes leisurely walks. However, one piece of advice she is eager to share is the importance of therapy. The benefits of having a third party to talk to in the midst of a busy life have been invaluable to her. The relationships formed at Patana also hold a special place in her heart. Reconnecting with an old friend after eight years of separation is a testament to the strong bonds she forged during her time at the school.
From Her Heart to Her Art
When Acksharaa isn’t immersed in her studies, she’s expressing herself through her music. Under the pseudonym “ARAA,” she has released an EP on Spotify. Her influences span a wide spectrum, from Joni Mitchell to Taylor Swift to Indian classical music. Her ability to appreciate the diverse world of music has been broadened by her time at Berklee, where she’s learned that all music, no matter how different, shares common threads of inspiration.
Acksharaa’s journey into music extends back to her days at Bangkok Patana, where she was involved in IGCSE music and sang in the choir, eventually becoming a part of the chamber choir. The lasting connections she made at Bangkok Patana are a testament to the school’s powerful sense of community.
As Acksharaa continues her journey into the world of music therapy, it is clear that her passion, dedication and unique perspective will contribute to the field in significant ways. Her story is a testament to the power of music and the enduring connections forged at educational institutions like Bangkok Patana. We look forward to seeing how her path unfolds and how she continues to make an impact in the world of music therapy.