How Exchange Taught Me To Be More Understanding
When I first joined AIESEC in my second year of university, I used to joke around and tell everyone “I’m going to go to India for exchange!” The people around me I met would always laugh, because they knew how much of a princess I was.
I myself didn’t even know I wasn’t kidding about India until I signed myself away to go to India for an marketing internship at a tech startup last summer.
Living in India, let alone working in an Indian tech startup, was a challenging experience.
The immediate problem I encountered (after the intense air pollution) was cultural differences.
Things were never on time. There were days where I arrived at the office on time with no one in sight. There were days were trains were ridiculously delayed. There were also days where I was left waiting hours for a meeting to start.
I had a lot of interesting encounters regarding India’s issue with gender equality. When I was on the train, I saw “women’s seat” next to the “disabled seat”. My colleague also asked me whether I wanted to ask the man to stand up so I could sit, which I immediately said no, and felt slightly insulted. A similar feeling came across me when I was charged less for a train ticket than my male friends.
I later learnt one of my biggest lessons in India from another intern from Brazil who said to me, “This country is made for the people in the country to feel comfortable, not for you. Learn to adapt.” From that day onwards, I opened my mind up to how flexible I could be in every situation.
I was able to travel India living in hostels that were only $2 per night, go on trips completely unplanned and embracing delays by making every moment an adventure (even if it meant being stuck in a car for 14 hours and feeling like I was going to die).
Having meetings that didn’t start on time didn’t mean that these people were any less hard working. Different people work differently; compromise, understanding and hitting the sweet spot with communication is what helped grow ourselves and the company.
I also later found out that the transport advantages are strategies implemented by the Indian government to empower women.
Everything made more sense when I put it back into perspective. Travelling and working intensely in my role as a Marketing & HR intern at Shout Networking was honestly one of the best decisions of my life.
And at the end of the day, I guess there’s always an element of truth to every joke. This one just happened to lead me to spend 2 months living and working in New Delhi.
Want an experience like Silvia's? Visit aiesecaustralia.org/feature/startup-india