Intern Abroad with Water Issues in India

Environmental Internship

Inspecting clean water

Renata is from Hungary and has been living in the US for the past 6 years, where she’s a student of economics and environmental studies. Passionate about environmental conservation, Renata was looking for a summer internship opportunity in India related to water issues. Through Leave UR Mark, she has embarked on an 8-week internship at an organization working on rainwater harvesting techniques and water conservation awareness, located in South India.

It was Renata’s desire to learn about environmental conservation issues on the ground that led to her decision to go to India. “I have been learning a lot about water issues in India and wanted to see things first hand and not just read about them,” she explains. Renata’s boss is a leading authority in the water conservation field in South India and is currently writing a book on the topic, to which Renata has been making a contribution. “A big part of my job here is helping my boss with his upcoming book and working on its editing and design,” she says of the task at hand. “I’m an aspiring editor and already edit different student-run journals at my college. So my responsibility here to edit my boss’s first book to be published in English has helped me develop my editing skills.” Renata also visits various sites throughout the city and rural areas to help the staff find the best technological interventions for water issues. One highlight has been assisting a coconut farm and providing much needed water literacy and guidance.

Environmental Issues Abroad

Her experience working with an organization addressing an important environmental issue has had a strong impact on her. “This experience has already influenced my studies and my passion for environmental concerns has become even stronger. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to focus on before, it was either conservation or global health. But now I’m sure that I want to work on environmental conservation because this is important. People will keep getting sick if we don’t address issues at the source.”

This is Renata’s first experience of solo travel in a non-western country. Though she thought she knew what to expect, it was difficult to imagine how she would react to her new environment. “I had images of cows on the streets and insane traffic and crowds. Of course I have seen this here but being in the middle of it all was a shock. There are no traffic rules, no seat belts, many people don’t speak English, trash is everywhere, and there’s a big gap between the rich and poor… I didn’t realize how different it would be. But there are positive things too. For example, in the US many foods are processed while here they are more natural and healthy.”

Renata is making the most of her time in Bangalore, getting to know the city during her free time and learning as much as she can about the local culture. A cultural highlight of her stay so far was attending her boss’s daughter’s wedding. She’s also done some traveling with other Leave UR Mark volunteers. “I feel like during the week I’m a resident working here with locals, and over the weekend I’m an American tourist! I’ve really enjoyed the weekend trips. I loved the palace in Mysore. It wasn’t like the palaces I’ve seen in Europe – I was impressed with all the intricate details – the doors are carefully crafted, for example. I also really loved Hampi. There were very few tourists there when we visited and there was a special charm in the ruins and stone sculptures.”

Volunteer Abroad

A rainwater harvesting model built by a volunteer

After spending 8 weeks in India, Renata feels that she has gained a lot of new experiences and insights into a new culture, and would love to come back. “I don’t feel ready to go home. I still have a lot to see and do. I want to come back but know I’m lucky to have the life I have at home. This is something I didn’t realize before. I see a lot of value in traveling and getting immersed in local life. It’s much harder but a lot more rewarding in the end.”

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