Upon my return

April 12, 2012 | Allison, DVM, Seva Mandir, Canada World Youth, Inde

After 12 weeks, I have returned to Canadian soil! After being greeted by my brother and his girlfriend dressed as a very Canadian beaver and RCMP officer at the airport, it has been a whirlwind of visiting friends, family, and travelling across the province. Being asked “so…how was India?!” by everyone I know has given me a chance to reflect on what I have learnt. I find that it is incredibly difficult, and near impossible to summarize what I personally learnt. It is a fine balancing act between simply replying “amazing”, or talking their ears off for an hour. Simultaneously, I am struggling with answering people’s questions regarding India: I have been asked general as well as very specific questions about what India is like, and what Indians do. While I could make generalizations, I am reminded of the elusive ideal of having an ‘authentic’ experience that can trap tourists and travelers, as well as the accompanying tourist ‘expertise’. My experience in India was my own, and it was bound by my own perspectives, positionality, location, interests, and context. This means that I can only speak about the individuals that I knew and what I experienced in the cities that I visited. Generalizations about India cannot be made based on my experience, and I cannot claim to know the real India. Every person who travels to India will have their own experience, which is one of the things that makes traveling and the internship program so amazing and memorable. We witness so many new and wonderful things – how we interpret these events is more a reflection on how we are as people and what we choose to focus our energy on. I know that it is going to take me several months to fully digest and make sense of what I experienced during my internship. After three months in India, the only thing that I can concretely say is that it is a beautifully complicated and diverse country that someday I would love to return to.

On a personal level, the internship program reaffirmed my belief and value in social justice and development work. I really love field research, interacting with people, and experiencing different cultures! I love that the social sciences are so complicated and messy and that development is made up of billions of individuals, all of whom have different goals and ideas. I also love being constantly challenged and learning new things. However, the next time I do fieldwork, I know that I want to know the language that I’m working in and I want to spend an extended time period there as it takes at least a few months to fully feel comfortable in your surroundings – at around the three month mark, something clicked for me and I finally began to feel like I understood what was going on in the office and feel like I could become a valuable team member. Just as basically all other interns have said before me, the three months fly by in the blink of an eye. Time is relative, and based on your attitude!

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