In the summer of 2011, I went on a two month long internship with AIESEC’s Global Community Development Program* to Baroda, India. I was working with a local group of schools, running an environmental awareness campaign with another intern from North Carolina. Together, she and I would make presentations about both Canadian and American culture, economy, and environment to elementary, high school, and college classrooms. In addition to our classroom visits, we also organized a community-wide event for the United Nations’ World Environment Day, on June 5th, 2011. The event consisted of a peaceful poster rally along a main street in Baroda, and a tree plantation. The attendees of the event included AIESECers from the local committee, AIESEC interns, students from the local schools, and faculty members. Overall, the event was well received, and we successfully gained positive attention to local environmental matters by community members.
Beyond my internship, my AIESEC exchange was also an eye-opening experience, as I was able to have an opportunity to integrate into a new culture that is so different than my own. I spent part of my time living in a girls’ residence provided by the school I was working for, and the other part living in a small apartment that I shared with other AIESEC interns, who were matched to other jobs in Baroda. My AIESEC hosts from Baroda went to great lengths to assure that I was comfortable in my new environment, and well versed with local norms and culture, in addition to bargaining at the market, and utilizing local transit and rickshaws. My new friends and their families welcomed me for dinner, chai, and accompaniment to temples. The community welcomed me as a foreigner, and all around, I received the most gracious hospitality.
On weekends and days off, I spent much of my time traveling across the country with my new AIESEC and intern friends. We hopped on overnight trains to destinations such as Bombay, Goa, Delhi, Jaipur, Agra, and Udaipur. On trains, we were like celebrities. Our cabin mates would share their dinner with us, and were eager to make sure that our stay in India was as great as possible. Upon my visit to the Taj Mahal, it seemed as though more people took pictures of me, than I took of the great vista. Traveling with people from countries across the world was a great learning experience for me. On our trips, my intern friends and I got along well, and really bonded. It taught me about human nature, and made me realize that people in general are kind, compassionate, and relate-able. Six months later, we still communicate via email and Facebook about our wild trips in India- the time we found ourselves working in a back kitchen of a highway rest stop making chapatis, riding camels in Rajasthan, going para sailing in Goa, getting ripped off by taxi drivers in Bombay, or spending time in Dharavi, the largest slum in India.
All of these experiences in India provided me with memories that I will cherish for a lifetime. I have become more culturally understanding, and to a greater extent, much more worldly than I had before. I now have a network of friends across the globe- from Asia, to Africa; Europe to South America; North America to Australasia. Furthermore, I am now someone who is very adaptable to new environments and can easily cope with a change of setting. I have also gained valuable soft skills that will be of great benefit for my future endeavours. With confidence, I can say that I have stronger communication, problem solving, team working, and organizational skills, as a result of my international experience in India.
Overall, my AIESEC exchange in India was incredible. It opened my eyes up to a whole new culture, and I really learned a lot about myself at the same time. I was able to travel and spend time in a beautiful country, while also making a valuable impact on the local community through my work. A truly unique opportunity! If given the chance, I would do it all over again.
*Note: This refers to our Global Citizen Program, which was named the Global Community Development Program back in 2011.