When I first decided to leave my day job and give volunteering/interning abroad a whirl, I was overwhelmed with the opportunities out there. The first thing I noticed was that a lot of the opportunities offered revolved around teaching English or constructing a building. My background wasn't rooted in teaching and I was looking for a transition into sustainable development, not aid. I was when I found FSD's site and realized that what they were offering was exactly what I was looking for. They offered three different areas that I was really looking for in a program -- cultural integration, (real) project development, and support. After checking with an old college professor about the organization, I decided to apply. The cost of the program was the only thing that was the only thing that had me concerned -- I was essentially paying a lot of money to work for free. Yet, I later realized FSD practices what they preach. The fees for the program allow the organization to function without depending on donations.
From the very start FSD was really involved in the process. It included an interview with the local site team, which was both an introduction and an opportunity to further express the type of work I was hoping to do. After the interview, the site team helped me with the visa application and promptly sent me my host organization and host family information. The support didn't stop there. Once I was in Udaipur, I received a week-long orientation on how to both practically and culturally navigate my time in Udaipur. After the orientation the site team checked in with me at least once a week, but were always available if I needed assistance. The support covered helping me find soap to giving constructive criticism -- that really helped! -- during my project. The site team also facilitated both cultural and development related activities. The activities included Q&As with prominent figures in the community, cultural activities, and exposure to different fields of development. We even went on a midterm retreat to Northern Rajasthan.
The key to the cultural integration, which was also the best part of the internship, was the host family. Living with the host family gave me a different perspective. My host mom was the sweetest woman and she suffered through my painstaking nights of trying to learn how to cook and learn hindi like a champ. She also included me in family activities, introducing me to her extended family, bringing me to weddings and patiently responded to all the questions I had about Udaipur/Indian culture.
The third part was the project development with a host organization. This was really important to me from the beginning. I was looking for a program of substances, which is why I opted for FSD over teaching English/volunteering. I was taught about FSD's approach to sustainable development, which was really important when I settled into the organization. The staff members, who after a few weeks became friends, had a really strong understanding of FSD's ABCD approach to development. We worked with the communities and clients to create a project. In addition, I was able to support on-going projects within the organization. The collaboration was a great experience, one that I felt I was able to obtain a better understanding of the reality of development and to contribute my own skill set to the organization.
The length of my internship was for six months. During my time I felt like I was able to accomplish what I set out to do. I learned about the practical applications to international development, I successfully integrated into a new culture, and had some good ole' fashioned fun.
An alumni network would be great.