Today, I woke up late enough to miss breakfast. Then, thanks to either the pressure of an empty stomach or the good 9-hour sleep I had last night, I started reflecting on what being an intern entails. I quickly realized that words such as intern, internal, inward, inside, in, …seem to be connected. And that is because they actually are. Indeed, the word “intern” has its roots in Latin, internus, meaning internal or inward. In the same logic, being an intern alludes to being inside something.
Before I go any further, some preliminary understanding needs to be grounded. Let’s understand that everything has two main parts: an inside and an outside. The two parts are somehow linked and their relation is vital. In fact, as an intern, I ultimately have to ensure a decent relationship with the extern. Put otherwise, my task in Aravind is to help the system reach out to the external world, or patients in this case, while solidifying the inside. For example, my first project has been on patient education, designed to raise patients’ awareness about eye diseases and what they should expect at Aravind. The main challenge in my project is to translate the material on patient education from a science-rich language into a patient’s preferred and understood language, devoid of scientific sophistication. Not fun at all!
Furthermore, there are many layers that can define in and out, as the inside in one context may be the outside in a different scene. While I am inside Aravind, I still have a self that needs to be nurtured. That’s why I want to maintain a healthy two-way communication between myself and the internship. I complete my assignments as an intern, and in return, Aravind’s unique inspiration fuels my personal growth. Working from Monday through Saturday, from 9 AM (or earlier) to 6 PM (or later), everyone here is firmly committed to their work. I had never seen such hard and loyal workers. Some of the doctors don’t even take a day-off on Sundays. I had to ask a doctor from Mozambique when I met him on a Sunday after work, and my questions were fairly predictable: “How does Aravind make doctors stay despite the incredibly huge amount of work? Are they better paid here than in other places?” In yet simple words, he gave me a very profound answer and roughly said: “It’s not about money. It’s about being passionate about our work and loving what we do.” Lesson learned!
Not surprisingly, everything was not very clear during the first few weeks. Besides, working abroad brought about greater confusion since things as simple as eating the local food were challenging. Yes, I experienced culture shock. Nonetheless, the more days I spend in Madurai, the more comfortable I feel. I came to believe that my new expertise is in working in an environment where I feel younger and less professional than almost everyone else. Developing self-confidence, exploring, making connections, and asking questions have been my secret for a smooth adaptation. And so, I enjoy being an intern.