A foreign student in Coorg

Kimberly KatzMassachusetts Institute of Technology

 

Coming to India this summer wasn't my original plan (or even my second or third). I was looking to get a lot out of a summer internship – my first experience in the field of public health, a cultural exchange, and a project that would help create positive change for a community. When I came across the Tata Social Internship program, I knew it would be a good fit for me. Tata has a dedication to corporate social responsibility in a way that benefits not only their employees, but the surrounding communities as well. My internship is at the RIHP (Rural India Health Project) hospital in Coorg, which primarily serves Tata Coffee labourers and is the only hospital in the region open 24 hours a day, and the most affordable and trusted hospital for many locals.

Having this opportunity to live and work in rural India for the summer has really opened my eyes to more of the world. I had a little bit of culture shock at the beginning, but everyone has been so welcoming and hospitable – something Coorg is known for! I've learned that just like I am happy to answer any questions about living in America, people here are excited to share their culture with me, whether that means showing me pictures of their family or patiently repeating the names of the different foods during meals. As part of my project, I get to visit the coffee and tea estates here in Coorg and talk to the labourers with the help of a translator. My questions focus on their healthcare experiences, but I still find it really interesting to learn about what matters when they choose a hospital and receive treatment.

There have been some challenges so far – difficulty communicating, lack of power and internet access, and a stomach bug – but I am learning from these experiences, which will benefit me both during the rest of my internship and in my future work.