It’s been two months since I last got back from my internship, and though I badly wanted to attempt a very detailed chronicle of the 1 and a half months that I spent there, I didn’t have enough time. But I hope this abridged version would succeed in sending my sentiments to the reader.
Going on exchange wasn’t really included in my plans after graduating. But then the opportunity was there and I thought, “There’s no harm in trying. Go ahead.” I thought of it merely as a way for me to prolong the hiatus from fresh graduate to responsible job seeker. Before, it was just supposed to be a transition point from college to reality.
Upon having been accepted in AIESEC to join their Global Internship Program, I jumped right in and searched hard for the perfect match for me. And since I specialized in European Languages, I narrowed my choices down to development internships, teaching specifically, and therefore zeroing in on Asia with the most DTs to choose from.
Somewhere far enough but not too close to the Philippines? Check. The company was called Eagle’s Educational Foundation. Work as a teacher? Check. Teach French? Check. Everything seemed perfect! Where was I going? To India, in the capital of the state of Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow. And then everyone would ask me, with the head cocked to the side and an expression of utter confusion, “WHY India?”
Going on exchange to India was a very “incredible” experience. The country’s tourism campaign is “Incredible India” and I have to say, kudos to the one who came up with that, because India is, indeed, incredible. It exuded this laid-back and very solemn climate, owing perhaps to the tens of lethargic cows that you’d pass by wherever you went, and not to mention scorching, since June is supposedly one of the hottest months up in the North.
I was especially very much taken aback by the juxtaposition of the modern and dated elements of the setting. For instance, most middle-aged women were publicly dressed in the traditional saree, while the men simply wore regular jeans and polo shirts. The literally hundreds of motorcycles and other automobiles, alongside the vintage though inefficient pedaled rickshaws, plus the cows.
Getting accustomed to their food was also difficult, but since spicy dishes are excellent for weight loss, I took the challenge and didn’t hesitate to eat like the locals. Vegetarian was the daily special, and I fell in love with the roti or chapatti, the bread made from wheat flour, that came with the cooked vegetables or curries, and the lovely chai or spiced milk tea, which I could find more easily anywhere than coffee.
Traffic in my country is nothing compared to what I encountered there: every car and motorcycle ride was like being in a wild car chase, and virtually nobody ever uses the side mirrors. Aside from that, learning the art of bargaining became indispensable to me as a foreigner, even up to negotiating for a more reasonable taxi fare. However, being in India, I had to travel because there was so much to explore, and laying eyes on the marbled Taj Mahal was amazing. Add to that the long and awful train trip to the city of Agra just to see it, and my adventure was complete.
India was incredible in every sense of the word. In certain occasions, I found it incredibly relaxing, incredibly shocking, incredibly absurd, incredibly dirty, incredibly awesome, incredibly complex, incredibly mysterious, and yet incredibly misunderstood. You know what I liked best about India, as a whole? Its blunt honesty. It doesn’t try too hard to please you with what it has to offer. There are things to hate, yes, but in retrospect, the good and the bad parts of it went together perfectly to give me the best memory that I’ll ever take back with me to my homeland. Once I got back to the Philippines, I had this bittersweet feeling and a pang of longing for India, as something you’d get from that someone you would never quite understand but whom you’d love all the same.
I learned so much in this internship, first from the practical skills of wise and independent decision-making, it having been my first time to go outside of the country alone, being patient, which dramatically evolved from reconciling with cultural differences between me and the people I worked with, and moreover learning that sometimes, it’s wise and practical to accept certain situations that are out of our control as an integral part of the experience, rather than incessantly complain about them. It was also an excellent place where I got to test my competences in being a leader and a team player. Working in a group of people coming from diverse cultures, different age groups and having clashing opinions established in me a need to be critical, not just of valuable situations where the best possible solution or a middle ground has to be settled on, but also be critical of myself and how I can use my knowledge, talents, and circumstances unique as a Filipino to help affect a change wherever I go.
So now, why India, you ask?
But why not, right? 🙂