This program allowed me to achieve my goal of expanding my global horizons through an immersive, international internship experience. It expanded my knowledge on international perspectives of sexual and reproductive health, practices used in rural medicine, and operations of international businesses. At the same time, I developed comfort in adapting to unpredictability and gained a deeper appreciation for Indian culture.
The diversity of work I was exposed to during my time with FPAI gave me a glimpse into the grassroots approach to allow for the success of sexual and reproductive health education programs and clinic services. I shadowed the organization’s youth education program, sat-in on patient visits to understand common chief complaints and treatment methods, and assisted with developing their English marketing materials. This process allowed me to gain a strong understanding of the four pronged approach FPAI utilizes to ensure a holistic coverage of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) aid from adolescence to post-maternity. By engaging in these programs as an intern, I strenghtened my public speaking skills through initiating discussions about SRH with local college girls. I learned about the resource challenges in rural areas and urban slums. For instance, my team at FPAI cleverly structured patient flow in a small clinic space to maximize space usage and I had let the doctor use my phone flashlight as an alternative to an examination lamp when it was not operating. In addition to the internship, my independent research project to examine the socio-cultural and operational challenges affecting the sustainability of a family planning and reproductive health clinic in India was my first experience with conducting original research. This has helped me build and adapt my critical thinking skills to a different setting. I critically examined my surroundings and analytically thought about the patterns I observed in my personal interactions with locals.
Working through the communication barriers with my managers and local women in the clinics taught me patience, how to find common ground through drawing pictures, and how to maintain a positive attitude. Working alongside locals allowed me to develop my cultural competency as I adapted to cultural norms such as the side-to-side head movement and greeting my elders with Namaste each morning. This trip also challenged me to become more comfortable with stepping outside of my comfort zone. Taking the risk to independently travel to another country taught me to be comfortable with unpredictability as my work schedule often shifted according to when programs were scheduled to take place or availability to gain access the location. I look forward to carrying this flexible and curious mindset forward into my future endeavors.
Prior to this year, I had never travelled internationally before. As my first solo international trip, I was extremely nervous to embark on the journey to live and work in India for four weeks. My experience abroad came with many challenges including navigating a language barrier and making new connections to adapt to a city without familiar faces. But I could not be more grateful to have had this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Through living with the local women in my hostel and interacting with patients and workers in the clinic, I learned and gained a greater appreciation about regional customs. This trip has tremendously influenced my medical career aspirations by opening my eyes to the importance of public health initiatives. In the future, I hope to work with the World Health Organization to assist countries to strengthen local healthcare infrastructure.