Although I’ve been to India quite a few times before, saying goodbye this time was extremely difficult. My experience in India this summer was amazing. “Amazing” doesn’t even encompass half of the joy I feel when I reflect on my time in India. It was two months filled with constant exploration, exciting work, and quality time with family.
Some things I’ve already started to miss dearly are the convenience of autos! They were such a cost-effective way to get around each of the cities we were in, and I miss seeing the vibrant color they bring to the streets. I also miss eating the tastiest mangoes! During the summer, I had the opportunity to try a wide variety of mangoes and not one variety disappointed! I’ll miss all the delectable food and chai, especially as I’m now off the dining-plan and will have to attempt my own renditions of the amazing food I ate all summer. I’ll miss being able to head to the local flea markets and practice my negotiation skills with shopkeepers. Moreover, I’ll miss the extraordinary variety of Indian clothes and jewelry available at every corner. I’ll also deeply miss my extended family. Because this trip was taken without my parents, I had the unique opportunity to communicate directly with many members of my extended family. I formed so many close bonds and am thankful that nearing the end of my time in India I was able to spend a lot of time with them (this is part of what made saying goodbye so difficult!).
In terms of work this summer, working at PHFI was such a unique experience. As someone who has only had experience with clinical and wet-lab research, working at PHFI was completely different from what I was used to. Because of this, my internship was a great learning experience because I got to see a completely different side of how we can affect health through a non-clinical lens. Specifically, seeing how adolescent health was focused on in rural areas through school programming and peer education was very inspiring. It was such a different approach to what I’ve seen used to address adolescent health elsewhere, and the success of the program was extremely encouraging to see. In addition to my field work experience, I also had the opportunity to see how health was impacted through government support by learning about and contributing to policy briefs that are sent directly to the government to inform leaders about pertinent health issues and ways to address them.
Additionally, throughout my internship I worked on the “Let’s Fix our Food Campaign” which is a joint effort between multiple collaborators, including WHO, to empower adolescents with adequate resources and information to make healthy nutritional choices. As a part of this project, I was able to make materials for the workshop of this campaign directed for adolescents and contribute to the planning of the virtual workshop. Nearing the end of my internship, I also had the opportunity to participate directly in the workshop. I helped moderate the workshop and got to interact directly with the adolescents in attendance. It was also great seeing that the workshop materials I had helped make were being used to educate the adolescents about nutritional choices!
One of my biggest takeaways from my internship is the value of health education in preventing non-communicable diseases. I also learned about the immense value of approaching health in an interdisciplinary manner such that without government support for health projects and without peer educators and other trained adults (such as ASHAS and counsellors) working directly in the field to impact the health of local populations, it would be extraordinarily difficult to obtain similarly positive health outcomes among certain populations. I feel lucky that I was able to play my own role in contributing to the health education of various populations on a variety of essential projects.
All in all, I am incredibly grateful for my time in India this summer. I learned to become comfortable with the unknown and embrace all opportunities for learning that came at me whether that be learning at PHFI, learning Hindi, or even learning how to navigate around the chaotic Delhi streets! I am extremely thankful to CASI and UPISAI for making this experience possible and supporting me while I was in India. I am thankful to my family for their support throughout my time in India, my co-intern Niki for being the best travel and work buddy I could possibly imagine, my supervisors at PHFI, and all the people I met along the way. This is a summer that I surely won’t forget!
Hope to see you again soon, India!