Hello! My Name is Nikita Patel and I will be interning with the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) in Gurgaon, Haryana this summer! I am studying Nursing and minoring in Global Health in Penn’s class of 2024.
Home for me is Lexington, KY. It’s also where my parents endured most of my pre-travel jitters. I haven’t traveled outside of the country/to India in 18 years, so this felt a little warranted and the constant news about India’s heatwave definitely wasn’t helping.
Despite the concerns, though, as the day of my flight gets closer, excitement becomes the dominant feeling. Fear of “Delhi belly”, losing my passport, and heatstroke is being replaced with excitement for all the cool people I’ll get to meet, the beautiful places I’ll get to visit, the fun memories I’ll get to make with my co-intern, Himanshi, and the impactful research I’ll get to take part in!
With PHFI, we’ll assist with “evaluating the implementation of the Peer Educator Intervention for improving adolescent health in India’s National Adolescent Health Programme (i-Saathiya)”.
As someone interested in pursuing a public health profession, I am ecstatic for the opportunity to work directly with an NGO’s community-centered mission and learn how PHFI’s public-private structure differs from others. Growing up speaking Gujarati, but learning Hindi from media and class, I’m also thrilled to use Hindi in a native setting and experience sights and things my parents have rattled praises for first-hand. These include buffalo milk, dabeli, “lakti” soda, Taj Mahal, and Rajasthan. Considering over half of the list is food, eating in India is still something that makes me nervous, especially when Laura (the amazing assistant director of CASI student programs & outreach) advised us to carry around toilet paper as an essential. Apart from digestive issues keeping me away from delicious delicacies, a major concern is also the giant virus in the room: SARS-CoV-2. As grateful as I am that Covid-19 has quiesced to the extent that allows my travel to India, this allowance is not synonymous with the concern it continues to pose within the U.S., India, and further abroad that may not only place a damper on the things I hope to accomplish this summer but also present a risk to our health. Current, reassuring, PHFI protocols include masking indoors, provision of testing services, not sharing food, and washing/sanitizing every 2 hours in addition to a hybrid work schedule.
Despite these uncertainties, I am wholly certain I will milk the situation and leave India with an enriching experience! Stay tuned to watch me make it happen 🙂