Interning in a country overseas, such as India, sounds exciting. But what is an Indian internship really like? Our Cultural Vistas Fellows in Bangalore are sharing their insights on their internship placements in real-time.
Cynthia, Molly, Isabel, and Brenda, are interning for the Habitat for Humanity India Trust, the Selco Foundation, Indian Institute for Human Settlements, and the Akshaya Patra Foundation. Read about their experiences in their own words.
Cynthia’s Internship at Habitat for Humanity
Albright College, International Business
Internship Host: Habitat for Humanity India Trust
Habitat for Humanity India Trust is a non-governmental organization that focuses on disaster relief, building homes, and improving sanitation throughout India. There are four offices in India: Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, and Mumbai.
My internship has been exciting and eye opening! On the first day, my supervisor said “if you really want to experience India, take the bus,” so that has been my daily commute to work and back home. When I am out and about, I find that it can be difficult for people to understand me because of my American accent and the language barriers, as not many know English and I am unfamiliar with Hindi, Tamil, and Kannada. However, I remind myself to talk slower, repeat a couple of times, and have alternative ways to explain my thought process. Oh not to mention, trying to cross the street is scary, but I am getting accustomed to that too!
At Habitat for Humanity India Bangalore office, there are about 10 employees and two interns. Everyone comes in around 9:00 am and leaves around 6:00 pm or later. Most of them work on Saturdays too. When I am in the office, I am compiling/inputting data like corporate social responsibility information and volunteer contacts. When I am on site, I assist with volunteer programs and, in the spur of the moment, I get to travel and learn about other projects HFHI Bangalore is initiating throughout Karnataka and Kerala communities.
Interning with Habitat for Humanity India, Bangalore office is an incredible experience and being surrounded by welcoming, passionate people is a rewarding benefit. I am definitely able to hone in on my interests and discover more about the fields I want to dedicate my life to.
Molly’s Internship Helping Underrepresented Communities
Colby College, Environmental Science
Internship Placement: Selco Foundation
Interning with Selco Foundation is better than I ever would have imagined. When thinking about coming to India through Cultural Vistas, I imagined the internship part of Cultural Vistas would be the least interesting part of Bangalore. After three weeks of my internship, I’ve realized nearly the opposite. Selco Foundation has become one of the best focal points of my trip so far. Selco Foundation is an NGO that focuses on serving the underrepresented communities in India in ways such as technology (specifically with solar energy), furthering financial independence, livelihoods, and education. Each different branch of this nonprofit creates innovative ways and ideas to improve the lives of these underrepresented communities.
I LOVE working at Selco Foundation. When I first came to Bangalore, I was admittedly completely terrified. The first time I can remember feeling like I belonged and was 100% safe was in the office of Selco Foundation. Within the few short weeks that I have been in the city, some of my closest friends here have come from this office. The office is filled with the kind of people who are sweet enough to bring you lunch from their home, drop you every day off after the work day is over, answer your countless number of seemingly dumb culture questions and so much more. The people are beyond caring, welcoming, helpful, and completely passionate about their work, which makes for the best working environment for a summer internship abroad. I feel like the work I’m doing is actually having a direct positive impact, the work I’m creating is going into schools to help children learn concepts and that’s so incredible.
I work with the education team at Selco Foundation. My task while interning with this foundation has many components, but the largest one is making activities revolving around hands-on sustainability activities that can be run in classrooms of government schools. The education team is working on many things, one of them being updating a previously created sustainability model in schools. I’m working on helping to make some of those new activities to fill any possible gaps in the curriculum.
While working at Selco Foundation so far, I have had the opportunity to travel to multiple government schools in and around Bangalore, and to one school in (beautiful) Ujire, India about an eight-hour bus ride away. It’s been only three weeks, but already I feel like I’ve learned, seen, done so much because of my internship with Selco Foundation, and I’m beyond grateful to get to continue the experience.
Isabel’s Internship Addressing Rapid Urbanization
Florida State University, Chemical Engineering
Internship Placement: Indian Institute for Human Settlements
The Indian Institute for Human Settlements is a national education institution that is focused on preparing the Indian population for the challenges it is facing during this period of rapid urbanization. They are currently in the process of building a campus that will have education, research, training, and resources for working professionals to be lifelong learners. At IIHS, there are many people working on a variety of projects, from the development of the campus to participating in a five-year research project aimed to help policymakers aid those struggling with food security.
The work environment at IIHS is truly incredible. I instantly felt welcome on my first day and am constantly being offered help and support. You’re expected to be in the office between 9 and 10:30 in the morning and you work until you’ve accomplished your tasks for the day. Some people leave around 6 but it’s not uncommon for people to stay even later into the evenings, around 7 or 8. Also, homemade Indian food is brought in for lunch every day, and there is even dessert three times a week! There’s also a newly installed rock climbing wall, an area to play table tennis, and there are yoga classes three times a week. Needless to say, working here is like a dream.
My main job while here is to help out with the Hungry Cities Project. This is a five-year research project with cities participating from Africa, China, and Mexico as well. The goal of this project is to provide a more comprehensive look at the different facets of food security, especially in urban areas. Our hope is that policymakers will use this information to help those struggling with food security, and also to empower those working in the informal sector. This summer I’ll be helping to write their city audit, learning about the informal sector, and taking pictures for the audit. I’m so excited to be working on this project and I’m learning so much about Bangalore in the process.
We’re three weeks into this experience and sometimes I still can’t believe I made it here. I’m so thankful to Cultural Vistas and the Indian Institute for Human Settlements for this opportunity.
Brenda’s Internship Feeding School Children
California State University-Long Beach, Psychology
Internship Placement: Akshaya Patra Foundation
The Akshaya Patra foundation started in the year 2000, today it is the world’s largest nonprofit implementing a mid-day meal program in government schools and government-aided schools. They are currently feeding more than 1.4 million children every school day and hope to be feeding 5 million children by the year 2020. India faces a big malnutrition/hunger problem and they are trying to combat these issues along with others by providing a free meal in schools. In many cases, this meal is the only guaranteed food a child will receive in a day. Attending school can potentially save a child from hunger.
Usually, employees at Akshaya Patra have 9-hour shifts at work so if you come in at 9am you can leave at 6pm, come in at 9:30am leave at 6:30pm and so on. They usually come in no later than 11am. Tea & coffee time is every day at 11 am and 4 pm, yoga is on Tuesday and Thursday at 9:15am, and lunch is at 1pm. Traditionally everyone eats with their hands. Many believe that food tastes better with your hands so there is no silverware in the cafeteria. For lunch traditional south Indian cuisine is served; which consist of rice with a sauce(referred to as gravy) and a side sauce usually eaten with chapati.
This is my second week working at the Akshaya Patra headquarters and let me start off by saying I LOVE my internship! The reason I chose this organization is because of what they stand for. Being able to work for an organization who feeds over a million children everyday is amazing. I am part of the Communications department and have a few assignments already lined up for me. I am creating and updating PPTs (powerpoints) and also writing articles, taking pictures, and auditing their website. I have a couple other assignments but this is what I am mainly focusing on right now. My co-workers have helped me with my transition here and they are the best! They are teaching me Hindi along with other Indian traditions. I have not felt homesick since I have been here and Akshaya Patra has played a big part in that. Thank you, Akshaya Patra, for welcoming me with open arms and thank you Cultural Vistas for this life-changing experience.
The Cultural Vistas Fellowship affords underrepresented U.S. university students the unique opportunity to advance their career goals, develop global competencies, and experience life in another culture. Learn more about the Cultural Vistas Fellowship. For the summer of 2016, Cultural Vistas has selected 12 fellows to take part in this multinational professional development program that includes eight-week summer internships in Argentina, Germany, and India. This fellowship opportunity is funded by Cultural Vistas. Learn more.