My parents keep asking me why I had to choose India. “Why not somewhere closer to home? Somewhere safer? Somewhere more western or more developed? Why not go with your second choice instead to Shanghai, a place you’re already familiar with?” I chose India because, probably like most other CASI interns, I wanted to challenge myself by doing the unconventional, becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable. Although I’ve lived in two different states in America, lived abroad in China for seven years, travelled a fair amount, and spent weeks by myself in foreign places, I’ve never been somewhere where I was the minority, was completely unfamiliar with the culture, didn’t speak the local language, and stayed for 10 weeks. And especially not for an internship. To be honest I’m equal parts terrified and excited, which is what makes this internship so appealing.
Plus, when I searched for programs through GIP, India was one of the few that included International Relations, my major, in its description. As a rising sophomore who has absolutely no idea of future career paths or where my major will take me, Shahi Exports seemed like a good starting block. At Shahi, I will be working with the Organizational Development (OD) department, which is a branch of HR focused on the wellbeing of workers. Each of us will be choosing a project related to improving the lives of the garment factory workers. Our projects, either individual or group, will aim to increase the comfort of the workers while also increasing their productivity and providing benefits to the company. After researching for 10 weeks, we will be suggesting improvements the company can make and presenting our ideas to company directors. With my passion for women’s rights, I’m interested in projects particularly focused on lives of female workers, such as having female supervisors in factories, menstrual health, or sexual harassment.
I’ve also wanted to go to India for a long time. Truth be told my interest and curiosity started after watching Slumdog Millionaire (yes I know it’s not the most accurate portrayal of India). My familiarity with India and its culture actually really isn’t much. It consists of the two Bollywood movies I watched before coming here, getting Indian food from Sitaar and Ekta at Penn (which is arguably worse than the airplane dinner I ate on Air India), getting my eyebrows threaded, and my mom’s brief description of her business trip to New Delhi last summer, “It’s really hot and there’s a lot of poverty.” However, I also know that India has a deep and rich history filled with conflict and beauty that dates back thousands of years. Its immense diversity among different regions and difference from the West is what makes India so fascinating for me. I’m excited to travel every weekend and explore all these different parts of Indian culture.
So, armed with 80 tablets of malaria pills, too many protein bars, extensive warnings to not drink the tap water, and an empty journal, I’m ready to start my adventure here.