I first visited India in 2005 as part of a study abroad program my sophomore year of college. I was sophomoric in more ways than just the collegiate sense, as I was just beginning to learn about international social welfare issues present in India as well as many other countries. During this time, I made a brief excursion Kerala to see a friend of a friend who was studying Ayurvedic medicine. As we were exploring an old fort by the sea he ruminated, “You are so young for this to be your first trip to India. There is a reason why you are here now. I don’t doubt that you will return.”
Fate or not, it seems these words have rung true multiple times. After working in and visiting many more countries since then, I returned to India last year as a social work intern to work with Self Help Group members. Now, I am grateful to be returning to India yet again as an AIF Fellow.
I enter this fellowship with humility, open-mindedness, and the motivation to both learn from and contribute as much as possible from my placement at Broadleaf Health & Education Alliance in Darjeeling, West Bengal, its staff and partners, and of course the communities and individuals the organization serves. The fields of Darjeeling are as new to me as the professional field of public health, so I feel lucky to be placed where I am. As a new Masters in Social Work graduate, I am beginning this experience with more skills than I possessed during previous work experiences abroad, and I hope their usage will lead to many positive personal and professional outcomes. I have no doubt that this third time in India will be as enlightening and diverse as ever.