Last month I set off on my first ever trip to India let alone doing an internship there and it was definitely an experience with purpose. I had spent two years at university prior to the trip learning business theory and relating it to the world of work in the UK so, as you can imagine, I was over the moon at the opportunity to apply these skills to a completely different culture.
I arrived in India after 24 hours of no sleep and the only word that I can use to describe my fist impression of the country is intense. The heat, the wonderful smells, the tooting of the rickshaws are more intense than ever; the mesmerizing colours. Already the world of city blocks, grey skies and miserable faces that London has to offer was behind me and I was ready to explore.
First on the agenda on my internship was to meet the beneficiaries we were helping in Nagpur. My team and I arrived with apprehension on location but a sense of calm filled the air as soon as we all climbed out of the car and were greeted with such respect and kindness. We were taken into their meeting room and we were blessed with a song and presented with a beautifully arranged bunch of flowers each by one of the women.
Although communication was tough due to the language barrier, we wasted no time getting to know the women and spent a day interviewing them and hearing all about their bravery and positivity despite such hardship. Their willingness to share what they had been through really touched all of us and it taught us that however confident and secure someone may seem on the exterior, it is often life changing experiences and struggle that has made them that way.
Communicating and working with the women definitely required a new skill set in comparison with interacting with different business partners in the UK. We had to learn how to balance compassion and emotion with the more traditional business priorities of objectives and time constraints. Spending time getting to know the women taught us to slow down, reflect and really take time to think about why we are doing what we are doing and what impact it has the potential to have. By the end of our stay in Nagpur, our priorities as future business leaders had changed and the bottom of the list was replaced by deadlines and profits and at the top passion and a real sense of purpose can now be found.
On the final day we spent with the women, we were given a traditional, homemade lunch of Dhal and rice. On the way to lunch I was joined by Lila, one of the older women in the group, she had come to hold my hand and practice her English. She asked me what my name was and I replied, “Fiona”. She struggled to pronounce my name and simply said instead, “Pri”, your new name is Pri” and with one simple encounter I felt like the trip was already a success. That is something I could only have experienced outside of my comfort zone and outside of the confines of my classroom.