Enjoying the sites of Mumbai at the Seagate bridge. Image: Brigid Connell
Enjoying the sites of Mumbai at the Seagate bridge. Image: Brigid Connell

Fresh off my Asia Society internship in India (Mumbai), this article looks at Asia Society, my personal insights on the program and why I would recommend it to others, and my experience living in Mumbai.

During the spring of my junior (third) year at Colombia University, I was looking for a summer job to give me some international work experience. Having travelled and studied abroad in South America and Africa, I was eager to try something new: India, in particular, grabbed my immediate attention. I came across Asia Society whilst reviewing the various international internships on offer at our school’s career centre. I applied, got accepted, and the rest is history.

About Asia Society India

Asia Society, a leading educational organisation, promotes understanding and helps strengthen partnerships amongst peoples, leaders and institutions of Asia and the world. In India, through the Mumbai office, it is able to do this through the running of public lectures, business discussions, policy roundtables, art tours and performances, and leadership programmes.

Asia Society Internship in India (Mumbai)

Open to locals and internationals, the Asia Society Internship offers a great opportunity for university students or graduates to work in an exciting international context, build skills and experience, and enhance their CV. As part of the program, interns will have a number of responsibilities, including the assistance with: researching and developing content for events in Mumbai and across India; identifying speakers and leaders from the Asia-Pacific; logistical arrangements; networking; communications; and identifying funding opportunities for Asia Society.

My internship experience

The work at Asia Society was intriguing and engaging. I helped with programme development, meaning I helped come up with new ideas for programmes and then supported my co-workers every step of the way to implement and evaluate these programmes.

Interning at Asia Society in Mumbai exposed me to so many people, resources, and ideas that I would otherwise never have known about.

During my eight weeks there, Asia Society hosted five events to engage the public on issues ranging from the India-Pakistan partition to the Japanese economy. Each event was fascinating to me; at each event I had the chance to meet new people and learn about India and Asia. Whenever we had down time, we were expected to keep up-to-date on current events. I was constantly checking Twitter, scanning newspapers and reading books. Overall, I can say that my internship at Asia Society in Mumbai exposed me to so many people, resources, and ideas that I would otherwise never have known about.

My team during my Asia Society internship in Mumbai. Image: Brigid Connel
My team during my Asia Society internship in Mumbai. Image: Brigid Connel

The internship’s highlights

One of the best parts of my internship was my independent project. With the professional support of my supervisor I was given the license to develop and deliver a project called Mumbai’s Mahilas (women) that was then published on Asia Society’s website. I interviewed ten women who live and work in Mumbai, each working in a different sector, for example law, finance, science, education, and entertainment.

Meeting with these women proved to be absolutely fascinating and enlightening. Each one had something new to say about the city, and each one deconstructed all of my preconceived notions of living and working in India and Mumbai. I could never have hoped to do such an inspiring project, but it was all made possible because of Asia Society.

Working and living in Mumbai

As a rapidly-growing, multicultural city, Mumbai offers so much.

Working and living in Mumbai was very new and exciting. As a rapidly-growing, multicultural city, Mumbai offers so much. I stayed in a hotel in the suburb of Bandra together with a few friends from my school who were also interning in Mumbai. We were always exploring new neighbourhoods or restaurants. Mumbai is a very affordable city too, so getting out and exploring is even easier. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming to us, even if we only spoke English.

Of course, moving to a new city isn’t easy, and Mumbai certainly has its drawbacks; many parts of the city are overcrowded, dirty, and loud, which I had to get used to. There is a significant and visible wealth gap – skyscrapers sit alongside slums – and the utter poverty can be difficult to swallow. However, engaging in conversation with local Mumbaikars and coworkers, such as through my interview project, is a great way to understand the city and its residents.

Some last thoughts

Working at Asia Society in Mumbai made me much more interested in Indian current affairs and working longer-term in India. As a direct result of the programme, I am currently applying to work in several cities in India and hope to return soon and build on my previous Indian experience.

My internship was advertised as unpaid but Asia Society provided a small stipend. The stipend helped with my living expenses but did not cover all my expenses. My university also helped me find the opportunity and accommodation options, so why not check with your university’s careers or exchange office about how it might be able to assist you.

I would recommend that anyone with an interest in Asia or India, or who wants to try something new, absolutely apply to work with Asia Society or a similarly minded organisation. The exposure to leaders and opportunities at Asia Society is unparalleled, as is the fast-paced, constantly changing environment of Mumbai, and India more broadly.

If you’re keen to follow in Brigid’s footsteps check out the internship and career opportunities on Asia Society India’s website.

For more internships, work and study opportunities, read the best Indian cities to study, work and live.

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Brigid Connell

Brigid Connell is in her final year at Columbia University majoring in linguistics. She has worked and studied on three continents and loves to travel, cycle, and beatbox.

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