Meet Naomi from the USA, who is interning on Intern Abroad HQ’s Social Work Remote Internship out of India. Here, she takes us behind the scenes of her online internship with an NGO…
During the summer of 2020, I spent two months working for an NGO in Jaipur, India dedicated to bettering the lives of children and women in the slums. As a remote intern, I designed my role to meet the needs of the organization.
Getting stuck into my online social work internship
On the creative side of my remote Social Work internship, I made friendship bracelet tutorials for the girls, craft videos for primary education students and lesson plans for life skills classes. The videos provided activities for children to do at home during this time of quarantine. The videos were fun and some included educational elements. I enjoyed creating craft ideas, filming, editing, and then seeing all the comments on YouTube. These videos helped me feel a part of something bigger. Dedicating time towards others and watching it pay off was very rewarding and special.
On the formal end of things, I did an evaluation designed to help the organization gauge progress against goals and targets. This included sending out surveys, conducting interviews, reading reports and writing a final evaluation.
Additionally, I researched organizations who could become potential donors. In the future, the NGO would like to build another learning center, so funding projects are necessary to get new initiatives underway. I hope to have reached out to long-term donors and found grants that can be applied for annually. These ensure that my short-term remote internship has a long-lasting impact and contribution.
Making cross-cultural connections
One of the most memorable moments from the beginning of my internship was being added to the WhatsApp group for 10th grade students learning English. It was announced that I was added to the group and the kids sent voice memos to introduce themselves. It was really special to get such a warm welcome.
From the beginning, I was amazed at how connected I felt to everyone from halfway across the world. I bought a book to learn Hindi so the goal is to one day visit the organization in India, in person, and be able to speak in Hindi to everyone. In the meantime, I am thankful for technology and translators!
Getting support during my virtual internship
I had never done an internship before, much less a remote internship, so it was an adjustment. Everyone was very friendly and supportive of me which I greatly appreciated! I was given a lot of creative freedom and flexibility and it was a pleasure to have such diverse work. If I was confused at times, my supervisor actively stayed in touch with me and answered my questions. I couldn’t have asked for a better placement and way to spend the summer.
I anticipated the time difference between New York and India to be an issue, however even in the evening, everyone would respond to me and answer any questions. Whenever I had scheduled meetings or interviews, everyone was always on time and willing to speak with me. Sometimes I had to repeat questions because of my accent (or maybe I talk really quickly), but I would just repeat the question or ask it in a different way.
I am very grateful to have had such wonderful people to work with. The key to traveling and working for an international organization, even virtually, is to be open, flexible, and be willing to embrace it.
Bridging cultural gaps between India and the USA
I did not feel like I was challenged by any cultural differences. I was well prepared by my coordinator on the key cultural aspects of India and the area in which the NGO is located. The language difference was a challenge but I felt supported in that regard.
For example, when I made videos for the organization, I was put in touch with other team members who would add Hindi subtitles. I continued to learn about Indian culture over the course of my internship and it was exciting to become better educated.
Working towards my career goals
My ultimate goal is to get a PhD in Sociology and work at a university as a research professor. I have always loved learning about other cultures and hope that my future research includes the study of different populations. This online internship contributed to my long-term goals by providing insight into the lives of people in India, a country I have yet to visit. In talking to my supervisor, other staff members and students, I was able to think about things that ordinarily I would not be thinking about, such as poverty, education, and human rights.
The internship opened my mind and strengthened some of my current skills (such as patience and creativity) while teaching me new ones (such as what it means to be part of a larger community). I decided to do this internship because I wanted to expand my own horizons and have a meaningful summer experience. And let me just say, this is way better than stacking shelves at a supermarket!
Key internship learnings
My biggest learning was in regard to grants and funding. I had never done that type of work before and it was very challenging to find doable grants. However, it was a learning experience and now I feel more equipped to continue working with nonprofits. I am also more informed on the grant researching and writing processes which I think is important in understanding how NGO organizations run and operate. Most significantly, this internship has really motivated me to take a stance and step into the role as an advocate for women’s rights.
Making memories and making an impact
My favorite memory from the internship was the first interview I conducted with a couple of students. They were so happy to talk to me and seeing their faces over WhatsApp made me realize that I was doing something bigger than myself. At that moment I really felt the love from my NGO. It did not matter that we spoke different languages, we still built a connection. At the end of the interview the girls asked when I was coming to India and I really hope that day comes soon.
I am inspired by everyone I met and I can’t wait to see the great things they do in the future. I felt like I was able to contribute a piece of myself into this internship and have fun during the process. My only hope for the future is to continue contributing to the NGO’s mission: empower children and women for a better tomorrow.
How to get the most out of your virtual internship
Before I began my remote internship and during the first couple days, I put a lot of pressure on myself. However, in talking and collaborating with my supervisor, I relaxed and discovered that the organization just wanted me to do my best. With this experience in mind, I would tell others considering a remote internship not to worry. Despite it being a remote internship, you are not alone! You are supported by so many people who are always eager to talk with you and work with you. With this internship and also in life, if you do your best, there won’t be any regrets.
If you’re considering a remote internship…
This is such an incredible opportunity and you should really embrace it. Take the time to really learn about the people you are working with - ask them what they do on the weekends or what they like to cook for dinner. Get to know the country you are connected with throughout the virtual internship and learn how another culture is different from your own. Just be open to learning new things and teaching others about your own culture. Interning remotely for an organization in another country is SO AMAZING and I really hope you love it as much as I do.
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