It has been 3 years since I spent my summer in India. Honestly, I don’t know where all the time has gone…
Actually, I do. I spent nearly 3 months living, working and traveling in India, 9 months as a junior at Penn stressing out about what I would do the next summer, 3 months as an analyst at the Securities and Exchange Commission in New York, another 9 months as a Senior at Penn running the College Republicans and Penn Political Coalition all while trying to find a job, and earlier this week I hit my one year anniversary as an Economic Consultant at Berkeley Research Group in Washington, DC. I guess that’s the really short version.
The thing about my trip to India is that I never thought it would end up being relevant to the rest of my time at Penn, or my search for the perfect post-grad job, but it is. Some lessons just stick, even if they aren’t the traditional internship ones, like how to use excel without touching your mouse. So 3 years later how has (is) India changed (changing) my life?
1. If you can make it in India, you can make it anywhere. My time in Delhi was my first (and so far only) time out of America. I was a pretty nervous young woman in a very foreign country. I wasn’t familiar with the customs, or the language or the food, but sometimes you just have to be thrown in head-first. I learned to walk like I knew where I was going, and how to yell at a rickshaw driver in (very broken) Hindi. I have taken the confidence I gained in India to New York, and then to Washington, DC. If I can travel by bus, train and plane (often alone) in India, I can figure out which subway line I need to be on to get to Madison Square Garden.
2. Self-starters get the most accomplished. Working for an NGO anywhere can be frustrating. Often they are so focused on the mission that daily management falls to the wayside. At Chintan everyone was so invested in furthering the mission that few people had time to give detailed direction to the interns. Abby and I were left to direct our own projects. We chose to do the work that we felt would be the most effective, and then discussed the results with our bosses. At times I felt lost, and a little worthless, but at the end of the summer I had done my best to leave something that would have, even a small, lasting impact. I learned that I should pursue the projects I feel are most important. When I see a problem I can start trying to fix it, even if I don’t have the direction of someone working above me.
3. Don’t be afraid to choose your own path. When I got the CASI internship I was beyond excited. I was going to India! Unfortunately, my Dad and even my classmates didn’t understand how a summer in India (of all places) would benefit my education and my career. I should have been looking for a banking or consulting position, or staying at Penn to take extra classes or do extra research. I even had my own reservations about how India would affect my resume, but I went anyway. Working and traveling in India was one of the seminal experiences of my life, and I wouldn’t trade it for an investment banking paycheck any day. India changed my life, and I still ended up with a great job in a city I love. I learned lessons that summer that would I never could have behind a desk in New York; one of the most important being that I can blaze my own path, and everything will work out just fine.
I definitely would not be the same person I am today without traveling to India. I am constantly grateful for the experience, and it gave me so much more than just a cool story to tell on first dates (although it is definitely that too!).