By Aaron Bivins
After a 20-hour journey spanning 2 days, I was finally on the ground in Mumbai, India. I was relieved to be out of an airplane seat, but as I rode across the iconic Bandra-Worli Sea Link bridge in a taxi, I was filled with a sense of impending doom. “What am I doing here? This is a huge mistake,” I thought to myself. I’d come to India as a Fulbright-Nehru Scholar and would now be spending the next nine months living and working at a government research lab. Despite some previous global travel, the reality of living abroad for so long without my family and friends nearby was overwhelming. But I knew that, in my experience, temporary discomfort while abroad is usually part of a meaningful experience. And so, I hung with it. Now, as I go into my last month of working in India, I can conclude the experience I had while here was well worth the initial discomfort. Based on my time living and working abroad, I have a few reasons I’m glad I participated in a global internship, which are also reasons you should consider pursuing one.
First is the opportunity to gain global experience for a marketplace that is increasingly global. The realities of living, working, and conducting business in another country become very real through a global internship. When someone wants to talk about the logistical constraints of India, I know firsthand what that looks like. When someone wants to talk about the emerging middle class in India, I know them, because I lived next door to them for nine months. These constraints and emerging economies will define the future challenges and opportunities for many global companies. Working abroad and having that experience certified through Tech’s Global Internship Program shows companies that you have what it takes to engage and succeed in a global marketplace. Not to mention it’s a tremendous competitive advantage to have this on your resume in that line of 30 people interviewing at the fall career fair.
The bustling business district of Chandi Chowk (Old Delhi, India)
While the professional gains of working abroad are tremendous, they are dwarfed by the second reason you should consider a global internship — personal growth. When you immerse yourself in a culture that is different from your own, you become a master of observation. All the sights, sounds, smells, and behaviors are new. Your “cultural norm” compass has to be completely recalibrated. This starts an interesting process wherein you ask the question, “Why?” of almost everything you observe. What’s most interesting about this process is that inevitably you shift from asking “Why?” of everything around you to asking “Why?” of yourself. Why do I believe this? Why do I value that? Why am I pursuing this career? In India I’ve come to a much fuller understanding of not only India culture, but also of myself by wrestling with why I am the way I am and why my Indian friends are the way they are. It’s not a matter of right and wrong, but a matter of deeply held, often completely unrealized, values. And ultimately the more in touch you are with these values in yourself and others, the better your decision making and leadership.
Why is this warehouse completely full of unbelievably massive and ornate Lord Ganesh idols? (Mumbai, India)
The final and, perhaps, for some people, most compelling reason is simple: make money while being abroad. My salary while working in India was measly by U.S. standards. But in India I was quite wealthy. So wealthy, in fact, that I travelled to Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur, Mussoorie, Haridwar, Agra, Rishikesh, and Pench National Park collecting loads of memories along the way. While all your friends are paying thousands to study abroad or travel independently, you could be getting paid to be abroad. If nothing else this shows potential employers that you are indeed a Helluva’ Engineer.
Getting paid to visit world heritage sites like the Chand Baori stepwell: Winning. (Rajasthan, India)