Dear Future Intern,

There are many things that I would love to share about my experience as an intern in India. These are things that I have tried writing about, things that I have dedicatedly tried to reflect on, things that I have pondered and questioned, and also things that, at times, I have just let be. But still, they remain things that manage to leave me without proper words or coherent answers…Each leaving me only to be able to so intelligibly describe them (exhibit A) as just that….things.

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These things: questions, moments, ideas, realities (or glimpses into them) and everything in between, have deeply changed the way I see the rest of the “things” I once thought I was familiar with (spaces, structures, people, connections, stories). Truthfully, as I sit here in the odd “normalcy” (again, whatever that means) of my return to the routine comfort of Victoria, I feel a mix of everything all at once. Coming “home” in the thick of the holiday season and back in the swing of a new semester has felt a lot like, well, coming home. I’ve been surrounded by family, sweaters, and toques, home cooked meals, the library, friends/loved ones, and a settling routine school day or workday to round it off. Simultaneously, it has also felt nothing like I thought it would. 

I would love to tell you that after all of this, I knew exactly what I wish I knew before I left- to say that I was sure of all the words I wanted to share with you, but I can’t.

And perhaps that is something that I have learned throughout my time on this internship: that there is no “right”, nor perfect words or action or situation. Instead, you will be met with many moments which will find you questioning, wondering, asking, searching for clarity, to grasp onto whatever feels “right”, if even for that moment alone. And this may be exactly where you’re supposed to be.

Too often you won’t have any of the answers, you won’t be able to wholly describe an experience or how you feel. Sometimes all you can do is be, do your best, and desire to try. It will be in these moments- the at times seemingly “normal”, maybe full of joy or overwhelming confusion- that the incredible adventure you’re about to embark on for the next little big while will be made. They will certainly challenge, change and stretch you, most often not at all in the ways you think it would. It will be messy, wonderful, challenging, exciting perhaps exhausting, at times uncomfortable…and I hope for you that there is nothing less. 

So again, while I cannot surely tell you of much, for now, what I will say is this.

Homework, Bedtime stories and Hair braiding lessons at Aunty Patasi’s in Govindgarh, Rajasthan

Dear Future Intern, I am so excited for the “things” that you are about to experience. I can’t say that I know what they will be, and chances are, even after all of this, you may not be able to immediately identify them all either. Instead, you’ll be learning from, with and through them perhaps for the rest of your life. While it wasn’t too long ago that I stood in your shoes and likely felt the same flood of mixed emotions- navigating how to address and answer, or even sit in the apprehensions, excitement, adventure, opportunity, and perhaps even worry of those around you and within yourself- what you will experience will be uniquely your own. It will be embedded within the intersections of stories of those you will have the privilege of walking alongside with, should you allow yourself and others to, together.

So, though there very may well be times throughout this experience, perhaps even now- whenever or wherever it is throughout this process that you find yourself reading this- of confusion, of doubt, of unknown and of overwhelming “something”, please don’t be afraid to let yourself hope. Your hope will fuel your work and learning, and your hope will allow you to see people, including yourself, in the most human way. Each day you will be met with situations which you can either choose to see as a threat or an invitation (maybe sometimes a bit of both?), your perspectives can be fluid. Allow yourself the space you need to feel whatever it is you do, to be excited or angry, or to desire for more, and to both dissect the feelings that arise throughout (knowing that they are on a spectrum- they don’t have to be either here or there & navigating your identity and the way it may shift contextually or with time) or to simply just let them be (because sometimes that is enough).

Be kind and patient to others and with situations, be adaptable (you never know what type of adventure it may lead you on)- but don’t be afraid to stay rooted in your core values (while being open to your view of them shifting). Be strong in your ability to share dependence and independence simultaneously, and more than anything, try to extend the very same openness, kindness, patience and hope with yourself- recognizing with humility your own humanness. Expect the unexpected (because even then, the unexpected will find a way to surprise you even more). Allow yourself to sit in the thick of it all and to actively “be free”.

Listen with, trust with, and laugh with when it all goes awry. Be confident in who you are, who you were, and who you are continually becoming.

Talk to people, ask questions and find your strength within your ability to be vulnerable. Know that you are surrounded by thousands of stories and lives and people who are likely just as curious as you, bound by something which is woven within each of us- within and around our background or unique lived experience- a little bit of humanity. 

Know that you do not walk alone. I am rooting for you- we are rooting for you, and are with you. This experience, more likely than not, will not be able to be quantified by a specific concretely developed competency; it may not easily fit into the typical experience of an internship or a perfectly curated adventure in the university experience… but, I am so sure, it will be so much better.

Good luck, and welcome to the CAPI family :).

Mikaela