Home. Transitions Abroad founded 1977.  
Travel Work Living Teach Intern Volunteer Study Language High School
As seen in the Transitions Abroad Webzine

5 Tips for Interns Going to India

Story and photos by Carly Vandergriendt

Author while on her internship in Jaipur City, India.
Author in Jaipur City, India.

I spent nearly all of 2012 living and working as an online marketing intern in Jaipur in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, India. I miss the vibrancy of life in India, especially in my unlikely home in the Pink City. Looking back, the time I spent there was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I wouldn't give up for the world, but that's not to say that living in India didn't come with extreme ups and downs. There was the drudgery of having to wash all of my clothes by hand in a tiny bucket of hot water, the frustration of always being treated like an outsider by locals even when I adopted Indian customs, and the joy of living in a city awash with every color of the rainbow. It is safe to say that in that year, I experienced my very own rainbow of emotions.

I signed up for an exchange program through AIESEC, a well-known international non-profit organization for youth leadership development. I chose them over several other organizations because local students run 120+ chapters worldwide and have around 40,000 members. So, there is someone to help you both before you leave your home country and when you arrive in the host country for your exchange. I also gravitated towards AIESEC because they're well established, and their fees for exchange participants (EPs) are lower than most work abroad organizations since many of their members are volunteers.

When I joined my local chapter as an EP, I was given access to a database of thousands of internship opportunities around the world. Initially, I was skeptical that I would be able to find the right job because I desired specific experience in a field different from what I had studied. I decided to be open to going anywhere in the world to get the experience I wanted — and that's how I landed in Jaipur.

After a year of living in the Pink City, here are my tips for anyone with their sights set on India for a work exchange destination:

1. Find "Your" City

I fell in love with Jaipur when I saw pictures on the internet of its salmon-pink street facades and read about its royal heritage. Jaipur is a medium-sized city by Indian standards, straddling a future of urban development and a highly traditional past. Nevertheless, many people asked me why I lived there over more modern, cosmopolitan cities such as New Delhi or Mumbai. For me, the answer was clear. Delhi and Mumbai overwhelmed me with their added populations, nearly equalling that of Canada, my home country. Although I enjoyed visiting Mumbai and Delhi, I was happy to choose Jaipur because it felt more like home.

Jaipur City street scene.
Jaipur City street scene.

2. Establish Someone Local Who You Can Trust

AIESEC India, receives some complaints from visiting exchange participants, perhaps because their primary focus is on the number of exchange participants they host instead of the quality of participants' experience. My home chapter warned me that AIESEC Jaipur had few positive reviews from participants. Even knowing that I chose to go anyway because I trusted my employer. He had been abroad on numerous occasions and understood my reservations about coming to India. After a few discussions with him, I felt comfortable going even though I had low expectations for support from the local AIESEC members.

3. Travel as Much as Possible

I decided a long exchange would help me get the most out of the opportunity. Nevertheless, as the months passed, from time to time, I noticed myself feeling "stuck." Granted, I was coping with substantial cultural changes, trying to make friends and establish myself in the city, and adjusting to a new routine. In addition, this was the first time I had a full-time job for longer than four months at a stretch. Travel was my escape. I would take a weekend trip or book a week away from work, and coming back to my home in Jaipur felt good again. It was exhilarating to hop on a train Friday night and wake up in a totally new environment. There is so much to see in India and so much variation between regions that there is always something to explore.

4. Befriend the Locals and Foreigners

When I first arrived in India, I lived with three Indian girls. I had one or two foreign friends whom I saw irregularly for a long time. All of my friends were locals that were around my age. After a while, I recognized a need to be around other foreigners going through similar experiences. Even though my Indian friends and roommates were lovely, I ended up much happier in a house for other AIESEC exchange participants. Ultimately, I learned how to balance my desire to connect with the local people and my need for support from other internationals.

5. Take the Good with the Bad (and the Ugly)

An open mind can be the difference between an incredible cultural awakening and an exchange you wish you never took. While I was in India, I had the benefit of seeing a lot of work exchange participants come and go — and not all of them enjoyed their time in Jaipur. Those with a positive experience generally had an open mind towards the local people, culture, laws, and food. In contrast, those who didn't have such positive experiences always found some reason to complain. Before you go to India, open your mind to the fact that the way of life will be very different and will likely require an adjustment process. If you give yourself time to immerse yourself in the culture and learn to appreciate local rituals respectfully, you'll be better off in the long run.

Related Topics
What is the Value of an International Internship in Today's Job Market? An Interview with AIESEC
Internships Abroad: Articles, Programs and Resources

About Us  
Contact Us  
© 1997-2024 Transitions Abroad Publishing, Inc.
Privacy Policy Cookie Policy Terms and Conditions California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) Opt-Out IconYour Privacy Choices Notice at Collection