An Intern Abroad – Lindy’s Indian Internship
Lindy Hua, a second year Marketing student at the University of New South Wales was kind enough to meet up with us this week to chat about her internship experience in Mumbai, India
What made you choose to do an internship in India?
My best friend, Bella and I have always wanted to do an internship overseas and when she finally found out about an opportunity to work in India we both jumped at the chance.
I never imagined India as the ideal destination because it doesn’t have the best reputation for travellers but I just wanted to go somewhere that was completely different. Even though it was tough at times it really made me appreciate what I have and learn not to take things for granted. And after you overcome the culture shock, India really is such a beautiful place!
You mentioned a bit about culture shock, what was the most confronting element for you?
As soon as I arrived and stepped into the airport everyone converged on the foreigners looking to gain their business. There were people asking to carry our bags and offering us taxi services. It was the first real difference I noticed. Compared to the order I’m used to in Sydney this was so chaotic. I guess everyone just really needs the business and money.
Driving through the city on my first night was an interesting experience. The roads in India were manic compared to what I’ve grown up with. The roads weren’t as clean, poverty is a visible factor, it’s loud and the road rules seem more of a gentle suggestion than an actual law. That being said it didn’t take long for India to grow on me. The culture and people are so vibrant and full of life.
What organisation did you work for and what was your role?
I worked for an NGO called Magic Bus as a Marketing and Volunteer Intern in Mumbai, India. I was part of the Sustainability team which is aimed at fundraising and keeping the organisation alive and running.
Magic Bus provides an educational program that teaches the local children basic life skills that we often take for granted as being second nature. Skills such as hygiene, how to study and how to be productive are all elements that are taught to children through a seven year program. Further down the track they also provide coaching on how to be a successful and effective employee.
It was a pretty informal program. On my first day I sat down with my manager and discussed what I wanted to achieve from the internship and what my strengths were. And then based on my strengths my manager set me up with a project to create a sponsorship proposal for Cadbury. The informality of the program allowed me to jump into any projects that interested me that lined up with my skill set.
You’ve previously completed an internship in Australia. How did your experience in Mumbai differ from your past experience?
I think it’s very hard to compare. I did a 6 month internship at global company called Merck, where I was the only intern. At this internship I was given a wealth of resources, a structured list of modules that I had to complete to fully integrate me into the organisation. Thanks to all that training, I felt like I was a true Merck employee and not just an intern. I really felt quite passionately about the company’s mission and purpose.
In comparison, Magic Bus is a NGO which is still very much in its development phase. There wasn’t a whole lot of orientation or introductions. It was more a case of they throw you into the deep end and hope for the best!
What aspects of your Magic Bus Internship would you like to see Australian employers include in their programs?
I don’t want to criticize Australian internships because I had one of the best learning experiences of my life at Merck. Although if I look back, I think it was the independence that I was offered in the Magic Bus internship that I really appreciated.
So I suppose to any employer that wants to know what students value in an internship I’d say it is trust. You have to trust interns to allow them to be creative and work effectively without having to be watched over. The trust I received in both my past internships allowed me to have some great experiences that were hopefully mutually beneficial for my employer and me.
What tips would you give to anybody interested in going overseas for an internship?
My first tip is to just do it. I know it seems like a bit of a useless tip. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the whole process, don’t be. All you need to do is lock down an internship, organise your flights and accommodation and then that’s it. Everything else will fall into place around those three key factors.
My second tip is to try to do it with friends. The whole overseas internship experience was amazing but to be able to share that adventure with friends made it that much more special.
The final tip I have is to travel during the weekends. You’re in a different country, take the opportunity to do mini trips, you won’t regret it. You’d be surprised how much you can do in one weekend!