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About the placement/internship

Why did you decide to do a placement/internship?

I wanted to learn more about sustainable ways of living, which I believe could not be of more importance with the current environmental situation. Other motives included wanted to make an actual impact to reforestation within an (albeit small) part of India, plus developing problem-solving skills.

How did you find your placement/internship?

Organisation website

Application process

An email/web form was the only application necessary, Sadhana was quick to reply with a wide variety of information needed for getting to the site (it is in a relatively remote area). They are also more than happy to take phone calls where they can talk in detail of the work involved. Applicants with specific skills, such as videographers or experienced project planners are also more than welcome as they are constantly looking for ways to expand and improve the work that they do.

What made you choose this organisation for your placement/internship?

The work being done at Sadhana looked fantastic, with volunteers actually being at the forefront of the work they are doing (the entire community is comprised of volunteers). This combined with the friendly community camp made me decide to pursue this placement.

Main responsibilities

Main responsibilities included forest work, such as watering and mulching (current season was not suitable for planting). Other jobs included, assisting with cooking shifts, preparation for the community chai hut, accompanying market visits for supplies, plus a range of additional activities.Various jobs are discussed and volunteered for during a weekly meeting on Sunday evenings.

Typical day

The working day starts early at about 5:30am (where the temperature is comfortable). After a wake-up call from a volunteer playing a variety of musical instruments, morning yoga, stretching and a group hug (!) follows.First 'seva' as they call it (first shift) generally centres around forest work, with the occasional different job. After this there is a break for breakfast, followed by the second 'seva', which involves less-strenuous work such as preparing firewood, watering plants or (in my case) making coconut milk.After lunch the day is generally free for you to enjoy, which often meant volunteers went on excursions to nearby town 'Auroville' on motorbikes, as well as visiting the beach, taking part in workshops, reading or taking part in group meditation sessions. Dinner commenced at 6pm with some form of community activity such as talks, dancing or 'sharing circles' afterward. There was the occasional extra shift during this time, such as cooking dinner or helping to feed the dogs, with an average of two per person spread over the weekday afternoons and weekends.

What did I enjoy about my placement/internship?

This is an entirely different experience to anything I have ever done before, and probably anything I could have imagined. You are immersed from the beginning in a supportive atmosphere with like-minded volunteers, who come from a range of backgrounds. The placement allowed me to value the importance of hard work (and getting up early!), as this was rewarded with the benefits of a beautiful forest that has been built. As the project is 100% vegan (and does not consume any form of refined food at all), this was a real shock to my system being used to a western diet that involves meat. Learning about the environmental benefits of dietary changes, as well as water conservation when washing and energy conservation (the project runs completely off solar power) was highly rewarding and is truly a unique experience.

Challenging aspects

Not being used to the Asian climate was initially tough, with 40 degree heat, a variety of insects and even several snakes being in close proximity. The community aspect of the project can be also very challenging at first, as it is 100% volunteer-led you are expected to put in a good amount of work in the mornings, which can often be very physically tasking. Good problem-solving skills are needed, as often you are in charge of a small side-project and may be leading a small team of colleagues.Other comforts such as showers, beds etc are also swapped for a simply eco-bucket wash and a hammock-style setup, however it is easy to get used to and frankly will be having too much of a good time to really care.

Did you use any skills learned from your course?

Problem solving skills in the face of an apparently impossible assignment were definitely used, being able to think laterally was a big plus. Also being able to work cooperatively and understand others needs (such as when I have worked in very small groups) was a very transferable skill, with a large goal needing to be divided up and shared between team members.

Has your time on placement influenced your future career choice?

Definitely. Although I have always had an inclination towards an international perspective on business, two weeks of working in what is essentially a jungle has put a great perspective in how Asian economies differ so massively to the West, and how these need to be treated in the changing financial landscape. It has also put a massive importance for me in being involved in an industry that benefits people or the environment (such as a startup social enterprise), as it is quite apparent that extractive institutions have caused widespread harm and are stopping development in certain parts of the world.

As a result of your placement/internship, what are your next steps in planning what you want to do after graduation?

As the placement was a certain 'shock' of rural Asia, with a sense of being thrown in at the deep-end, this has showed me how much excitement and challenging opportunities there are in Asia. I am going to pursue opportunities in business with the chance to work from a global perspective and in developing countries. The placement has also stressed the importance of learning several languages to me, as working with an international team shined on the fact of how lacking second language adoption is in the UK.

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Form completed: 18 May 2019

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