1 year older
2 field visits
4 rounds of revision
5 concurrent projects
36 pages of report
280 kilometers of traveling
and countless learning moments
If I were to summarize my first month in India with numbers, these are definitely the highlights that come to mind. The past few weeks have been filled with surprises (good ones), challenges, lots of laughter and quite some tears (mostly happy ones). Since today marked the midpoint of my stay in India, I’ll do an in-depth reflection on my learning and growth over the past few weeks as well as some major challenges that really pushed me outside of my comfort zone.
Compared to the first two weeks of my internship, I definitely felt more at ease and confident at work. Rather than spending most of my time working on smaller projects and assisting my supervisors, my tasks have become more comprehensive and challenging. Before I delve into the specific projects I had worked on, let me first make some clarifications about my roles in the office. Even though I work directly under the Content Development team, I also report to the managing director of my organization and the leader of the Research team. Therefore, I have three supervisors (or mentors, I would rather say) who provide guidance and feedback to me along the way. Because of this unique “supervision mechanism,” I was assigned 5 concurrent projects that covered a huge range of topics in early childhood development. From forecasting trends in early childhood education in developing contexts to examining parental engagement in the digital age, I have reviewed over 50 reports in the past three weeks and completed four reports on my own.
Out of all my tasks, the most challenging one was to identify key trends in early childhood education in order to inform my organization’s global strategic planning for the next five years. As much as I feel confident with my knowledge and experience in early childhood education, I have never done any market research in the past, nor was I familiar with my organization’s business development strategies. Plus, I needed to complete the report within one week’s time so that the results could be shared with my organization’s offices in three different countries.
When the director of my organization first assigned this project to me, I was determined to complete it on time with high quality to prove my value as an intern. Thus, for the first two days, I was just working alone on the project even though I have many questions and needed much guidance. Soon I realized that working like this was not going to lead me anywhere, so I reached out to the director of my organization, not expecting a response from her (partially due to my prior experience working in China). To my surprise, not only did I get a response from my mentor, she also blocked a time to chat with me. During the meeting, she explained to me in detail what this project was about, answered my questions, and went through my draft page by page to give me feedback on the content and style of my writing. This meeting was so productive and conducive to my analytical thinking that I was able to finish and revise the report to meet the expectations of my organization. I was very glad to find out that this 36-page report, after 4 rounds of revision, will be shared with the New York headquarter and several country offices of my organization. More importantly, I learned the lesson that it’s never embarrassing/too late/inconvenient to seek help and guidance if you’ve tried your best.
Of course, I need to thank my organization and the wonderful people here for such a friendly and collaborative culture. All the colleagues I’ve worked with valued my input and provided me with constructive feedback. Both my mentors included me in team meetings as much as possible so that I can contribute to the planning and implementation of projects. Even the director of my organization asked me what I wanted to learn from this internship and made sure that I got the experiences I had hoped for. Therefore, even though I could not speak Hindi, I had the opportunity to go into the field and observe children and facilitate research.
Perhaps because of the emphasis of teamwork in my organization, I feel genuinely happy when the projects I was a part of turned out to have fantastic results! Recently, for example, I helped my mentor prepare a presentation that she was going to deliver at an Early Childhood Education conference in India. We worked side by side from brainstorming to ultimately presenting it at the conference and there were several days when we had to stay at work till we were the only two left in the office. However, all the hard work paid off when my mentor delivered a fun and informative presentation at the conference and showcased my organization’s projects to many early childhood educators, investors, and researchers in India. It made me truly happy knowing that my input helped affect some concrete changes in the field of early childhood education in India. What made the conference even better was seeing my fellow IEDP friend Lauren (the organization she’s interning with sponsored this conference) and bonding with her and her colleagues during the post-conference happy hours! It was truly a wonderful and amazing experience! (Oh by the way, I was invited to this conference in the first place because of a connection I made at the Comparative International Education Conference in Mexico City earlier this year! Once again, I learned the power and importance of networking!)
While I was able to connect with many education professionals through my work, some really interesting and unexpected personal connections have also been forged over the past month. For example, one of my Instagram followers saw my Delhi photos and asked if I wanted to meet up. I later found out that we went to the same college and he happened to live in the same dorm that I was in! What a small world! After we got connected, we met up and he showed me around the Tibetan Refugee Society in North Delhi and treated me to some tasty Tibetan momos and noodles. I also became friends with some researchers hired by my organization to conduct a short-term study. One of them is Nepali who immigrated to India a few years ago, and the other one is from a tribe in Northern India. I learned so much about their cultures and aspirations, and it was such a humbling experience to actually meet and talk to the people I usually just read about in reports and writings. Also, this coming Friday, Lauren and I, along with some IEDP families and friends will meet up to watch the World Cup together! I look forward to another IEDP reunion soon!
Finally, to conclude this blog post, I’m leaving one of the highlights of my first month in India to this last paragraph-I became one year older in June and had the best birthday celebration in India! On my birthday weekend, my partner came to visit me in Delhi, and we took a trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort with my host family. Many people came up to me at the Taj Mahal to take pictures with me (which I did not fully understand, but it gave me the opportunities to talk to people from all over the country, which I enjoyed a lot). Later, my host parents surprised me with a tasty chocolate cake and a room full of colorful balloons. I was truly moved and feel very blessed to have a family here who cared about me as much as my family at home.
Looking back to this past month in India, there are just so many beautiful and colorful memories that I cherish. However, there were also times when I was so homesick that I would cry on the phone with my mom, or when I was actually sick and had to stay at home by myself (Delhi Belly is no joke). I also had a hard time adjusting to the Indian hospitality at times and had to learn to be firm and say no to do what’s best for me. Anyways, no matter good or bad, I see all experiences as opportunities to learn and to self-reflect. I hope the second half of my journey could continue to be this beautiful and full of adventures. Can’t wait to share more with y’all soon!