My trip to India has become one of the best decisions I have made. It was a positive and enriching experience that I never could have imagined. When the MAMTA internship was presented to me during class, I was quickly drawn to the subject. It sounded like something that I should learn more about. After attending a few information sessions, I was convinced that this was the internship I needed. Once the ball started rolling, time flew by, and soon enough I was packing for the trip of a lifetime.
When I arrived, I found out I would be living with two Oregon State interns and ten other interns from all over the world. It is safe to say that the culture shock set in quickly, and lasted about two weeks. Once I started to feel more comfortable with my surroundings, I became much more open-minded about my experiences. Simple activities that we are all accustomed to in the United States became huge struggles that I had to relearn in my new environment. Plugging in appliances were never a simple task and power outages were common. Lighting the stove on our single gas burner made cooking a challenge. Grocery stores were almost non-existent in comparison to what we have access to in America. If and when we decided to buy food, it was coming from what is most similar to a convenient store. It is not hard to imagine that our diet was not on-point during these three months, while most days we would eat our or order in simply because the convenience and lack of access to well-balanced home cooked meals.
Our mentors on site at MAMTA Health Institute were very accommodating to the ideas and passions that I have for Public Health. There were able to tailor projects to each of our interests in order for us to work directly with adolescents in the slums. We created a risk analysis in order to understand the health risks facing these 100 adolescents, as well as how their activities of daily living in the urban slums may affect them in years to come. Working with the community and being hands-on in this way opened my mind to so many things that I had never encountered before, including a life of poverty that is so normal for many people in India. The poverty and filth I saw in these areas was overwhelmingly powerful, real and eye opening It is sad to say that with the internship only lasting ten weeks not much could be done as far as creating changes within the community. In reality, outreach and awareness is something that I would have loved to become more involved with in order to allow for positive changes to help these families with their overall health and wellness.
On our off time, we were able to travel and learn more about the country that we were living in. Aside from the initial tasks that we learned while getting to and from work every day, like crossing through lanes of traffic on the overcrowded streets of Delhi, catching a rickshaw or bartering with our drivers, we also learned a lot from the other students we lived with; simply though the differences and experiences we each have by being from different countries and cultures.
We were able to take amazing and unforgettable trips like to The Taj Mahal, camping on the beach in Rishikesh, and rafting on the Ganges River. We had the chance to paraglide through the Himalayas during a weekend trip to Manali and Kasol, and ride elephants and camels in Jaipur.
It is difficult to encompass everything that I was able to experience in words during my trip. However, I know that it was an experience and adventure that I would never want to change. I am so thankful to have had this opportunity present to me by Oregon State and their partnership with MAMTA. It allowed me to work abroad hands-on with the community in order to set the framework for me to preform international Public Health outreach and awareness to underprivileged children and families.