Tej’s internship in India with the Observer Research Foundation

Valluvar Kottam


Tej recently undertook an internship in Chennai, India with the Observer Research Foundation. We were lucky enough to catch up with Tej and hear about how he organised the internship and Chennai style living.


Tell us about your internship in India with the Observer Research Foundation?

My internship experience in Chennai, India was a great learning curve about various aspects of Indian society.

The first day I landed in Chennai, the first thing that I noticed was the extreme humidity, noise and the number of people. I immediately took a cab which unfortunately was non-air-conditioned and so I had to bear the Chennai Humidity. As the first initial days went on, I started getting used to the surroundings, the way my Grandma lives (I was staying at her place for the duration of the internship) and the habits that people have. I realised from the get-go that people live very differently to Australia. So it took a week to adapt and to learn to acclimatise to Chennai style living.

So my internship in India began at the Observer Research Foundation located opposite a swanky 5-star hotel where apparently days after I left, the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stayed during her trip to India. The office was modern and the people were nice and welcoming. I began my project which was writing a report on the bilateral relationship between Australia and India.

I was giving a general overview of the political, economic, social and security elements of this important relationship. I utilised experts in the field, namely, the Indo-Australian Chamber of Commerce, my supervisor at the Observer Research Foundation and Australian government officials.

The people I met were accommodating, resourceful and have authority in their respective roles. As well as completing the report, I took part in writing a piece for the organisation’s website which was a summary of a talk given about Africa and its economic development.

The experience of Chennai and its people as well as its working culture made me come away with a pleasant feeling. It is a vibrant city, with an enticing culture that will leave a mark on you once you leave. The organisation I interned with was wonderful and it gave me an insight into how a not-for-profit NGO works. All in all, a great experience, and one I will never forget.


How did you find the internship at the Observer Research Foundation?

The course that I undertook at Deakin University, Bachelor of Arts (International Studies) as it was known then, had a compulsory internship option. This internship had to be completed in the final year of study and was a prerequisite to graduating.

The process to attain an internship was an interesting experience in and of itself. I first thought of doing an internship in Europe or North America, but then through my Uncle (who works in a similar field I am aspiring to be in), I found the Observer Research Foundation and the Indo-Australian Chamber of Commerce in Chennai, India. From this point on, I made contact with the Director of the Chennai Chapter of the Observer Research Foundation as well as the Director of the Indo-Australian Chamber of Commerce and began the process of attaining an internship placement.

The key aspects I discussed with the Director were duration, project goal, what I can offer their organisation and vice-versa. Once these parameters were finalised and a confirmation email was sent, it was time to start organising visas, tickets and prepare for my two-month internship in Chennai!


What tips do you have for other aspiring students to intern in India?

My tips for aspiring students who are wanting to intern in India is to first understand that when you are contacting an organisation, you contact them after 10:30am Indian Standard Time. As unlike Australia, the working day starts at this time in India and ends later. Also, it is important to obviously work out the time difference between Australia and India before contacting.

Another thing that I can give tips to aspiring students is to attain the mobile numbers of the people you want to get in touch with. In India, mobile is more prevalent than a landline number. In terms of writing an email or any other form of written communication when applying for an internship in India, it is important to use proper correct English grammar. From what I have learnt, it is important to use ‘Dear’, ‘Regards’ and to write in a formal manner.

Next, as with any internship in any country, it is important that you research the organisation well, find out exactly what they do and what is their mission and vision. Also, if the organisation has had international students come and intern with them, this can give you an insight into what the organisation is all about as you can find their written experiences on their website.


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Tej Boddupalli

Tej is a recent graduate of Masters of Diplomacy and Trade from Monash University. He has been a Research Assistant at the Monash European and European Union Centre and interned in Chennai, India with the Observer Research Foundation and the Indo-Australian Chamber of Commerce.

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