It’s quite hard to summarize a travel experience; so how complex it is to make the point about an internship in India. Finding the right words to express such a rich and multifaceted adventure is complicated; it’s hard to talk about it but there is also so much to say.The first time I asked myself what I’ve learned from my experience in India was in a cab, coming back from a fourth or fifth visit at the hospital after an ankle injury. That day, I questioned my experience there because things turned out to be not as I expected them they would be, and I had taken the decision to go back to my country before the end of my internship, for a medical purpose.
It’s very common to hear warnings and recommendations before traveling, such as how mentally and physically prepared for a cultural shock you have to be. If you travel for a professional purpose, you are often told that you have to be very patient and flexible, as well as open-minded. So after hearing that for a while, you think you’ve got enough and that you detain all the tools needed to succeed your journey, and then it starts. With EduCARE India, you have an Induction; you begin your insertion in your new environment; you get involved with the community; you think about some goals and objectives you want to achieve… You take a step back to analyse the situation and create a project related to the needs of the local population and the outcomes you want to attain…
And then, you realize how big are certain barriers that keep you from doing your project the way you want to do it. You are destabilized and it’s sometimes hard to apply what you’ve been told: to adapt yourself to every situation. In my case, to be a Project Manager for Women Empowerment in Gajner was a huge opportunity to learn to work on the field and to acquire the skills related to the project management and the social development. It pushed myself to find the tools and the motivation to pursue my project even if the conditions didn’t help, such as the extreme heat, the language barrier and the lack of resources. I thought a few times that it was difficult to work with those conditions, and then other inconvenience happened, and everything became more complicated. In the most difficult moments, the professional pressure pushed myself to continue my work and find some alternative ways to conduct my project, as well as the pressure I myself put on my shoulders. I didn’t want to fail that professional and personal quest.
At the critical moment I questioned my experience, I realized the outcomes of my internship. I truly understood that you can’t control everything, and failure brings lessons. From there,you learn how to improve yourself. And fortunately, EduCARE India allows you to make some mistakes and encourages you to move forward and think about yourself. This experience has been amazing for me because it brought me a lot on both the professional and personal sides. An internship with this NGO not only gives you the chance to work on the field with a local approach and to immerge into the culture, but also to learn more about yourself. You are not going to change the whole world with your work there and you might be sometimes discouraged and overwhelmed, but you are going to make some steps and participate for a bigger change. And you should do it for yourself; it might totally change your vision, and self-development is important to lead to a better world, in my opinion.
It took me some time to realize how important are the benefits I got from this experience. I was first not able to express them with words; I just had this feeling of emptyness and plenitude, as well as weakness and strength. I was prepared for India and didn’t really have a cultural shock. But things out of my control happened, and I felt more vulnerable than ever, without passport, identification cards, money, and with a cast and crutches. It’s at that moment that I really understood the meaning of being patient and flexible. Having to deal with that many issues while having to work at the same time was hard. But at that moment I also felt thatI was stronger than ever, because I experienced that everything depends on your mindset and that you have the control of your mind. You are the only one who can decide for yourself and your experience thus depends on you. And you can work on your self-development to improve your work.
It’s normal that such a multidimensional experience generates mixed feelings and that some things get out of your control. But it is what makes an experience more enriching and thrilling, and pushes yourself to grow and evolve. So for future interns I would say; you’ll become more independent, stronger and fearless. But at the same time just “go with the flow”, learn to let things go, to take things easy, to be vulnerable, to recognize your fears and weaknesses, to accept help… It doesn’t make you weaker; it helps you to open yourself and gain another perspective. Let down your mental and physical barriers. You will achieve a lot this way, and you might achieve more than you notice, professionally and personally speaking.
Laurence Patenaude - Canada
Women's Empowerment Project Manager in Gajner