I’ve now been back in the US for a few weeks and I seem to miss India more and more each day; I’ve been out with my family for Indian food twice now and each time I leave wishing I could have the real deal back in Pune. When I first arrived at home, it was great to be back with my closest friends and family, but it only took about a week for me to understand the amazing experience I had left behind. There were many things I was incredibly lucky to learn throughout my experience, whether personally, professionally, or academically.
My time in India allowed me to develop quite a bit on a personal level. Spending two and a half months in an entirely new country with completely new food is a rather jarring experience; I had been incredibly excited to go to India up until my plane landed, realizing I was completely and utterly alone. This reaction surprised me entirely – I had traveled a lot with my family and thus always considered myself a ‘seasoned traveler’ who would never experience culture shock. Looking back now, that mindset was naïve and I should have known better, but I guess there is no better way to learn than by experience! It took me a couple of weeks to fully get comfortable in India, adjusting to the flavors, smells, culture, and being away from anything that ever felt familiar. However, I soon adjusted to my new world and the country I came to call my home for the next few months – I came to love India and its incredible culture. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone and taking an entirely independent trip made me far more comfortable as an individual.
In an academic sense, understanding the culture of India has become far easier since I’ve had the chance to actually live it. Staying in a hostel on a college campus allowed me to meet many students from all over India, each of which was incredibly excited to share stories about their family, culture, and often most predominantly, their local food. With the generosity of the Summer in South Asia Undergraduate Fellowship, these stories have become reality through travel to locations far outside of where my internship is based. I was lucky enough to have the time to visit the cities where many of my new friends were from, learning about traditions like elephant painting in Jaipur and trying local sweets in Agra.
Professionally, interning with an organization abroad has allowed me to take on a level of responsibility seldom offered to rising sophomores in the United States. As a result, I’ve come to understand many important skills necessary for success in the consulting realm. Primarily, consulting is all about asking the right questions – this is critical for workshop facilitation as well as carrying out a project successfully and to the satisfaction of a partner or client.
Overall, I couldn’t be happier with my experience in India, and I can’t wait to someday return to the country I came to see as my second home.