Get Global

In this blog, our Global Experience Opportunity interns will be writing a series of weekly blogs from Tata Medical Centre based upon their experience of local culture, sights and internship. Our students will also be updating you on what they have been getting involved in and enjoying each week!

Week 1

Hello all readers. Rather, namaste to you all!

Welcome to our blog. Brief introduction about ourselves before getting into details about the internship at TATA Medical Centre (TMC) and experience in Kolkata. 

Jacob – I am a 23-year-old student from Newcastle University and recently completed my final year in Accounting and Finance. Fun fact about me is; I LOVE to travel (hence, you can imagine why I wanted to do this internship). 

Marco – I am a 23-year-old student from Groningen who has just completed an MSc in International Economics and Business. The combo NGO + India given by this internship definitely got me, since I plan to look for a job in an NGO myself after finishing my studies. I also love with spicy food, so I am in the right place, right? (Said with the lips still burning from last meal).

The first week was packed with challenges but exciting at the same time. Although my roots are from India, the exposure in the eastern parts is completely different from my native place (South India, Kerala). 

The very first day we got a warm welcome by our supervisor Dr. Soumitra Datta and he briefly went through the projects we will undergo in these 6 weeks.

Throughout this internship, we will be carrying out 2 projects.

Project 1: Adult Attachment style influencing heath related help seeking in young adults.

The project will involve interviewing young adult students from a local university. We will explore how the relationships an adult has with others, will influence their health related and help-seeking behaviour and will be using both qualitative and quantitative methods to analyse and report the findings. 

Project 2: Hospital data analysis

The second project will be focusing on is analysing data provided to by the Tata Medical Centre. 

An additional project, which we took upon ourselves, was editing a book for publication by the Tata medical Centre at one of their exhibitions near the end of this year.

In the first few days we got the opportunity to shadow the doctor’s and accompany them for rounds in the general wards, paediatric wards and the palliative care units (which was rather moving for both of us).

During this first week, we had an initial meeting discussing the first project and the way we were planning to collect data. Initially the plan was to carry out interviews to collect data. However, after detailed discussion we concluded that it would be more accurate if the questionnaires were filled in by the students to make them more comfortable, giving us more accuracy in the data collected.

One of the great advantages of doing an Internship abroad is you get to learn about a different culture and how it plays pivotal role in the way a project is carried out.

After the meeting, our first task was to edit the questionnaires prepared before and ensure they were clear enough for the students to understand. Then we got a chance to practice presenting the way we will be carrying out the data collection in front of the senior doctors and the head of the university (where we will be carrying out the data collection) and had a couple of mock trials as well to get used to it. We will be going to the university to plan the process step by step as the academic year starts the second week of July. Watch out for the next couple of blogs to see updates on how we get on.

Reaching Kolkata on the Saturday, 2 days prior to our start date at TMC allowed us to have some time to catch up on our sleep and gave us the full day on Sunday to start exploring Kolkata.

Kolkata often referred as ‘The City of Joy’ encapsulates a lot of history and is the most economical metro city in India. During the first weekend, we covered the Victoria memorial, Howrah Bridge and a short visit to the old town of Kolkata.

Fortunately, we brought luck for the people in Kolkata (described by the local interns) as the monsoon started quite late, the same day we arrived. Ironically, we learnt about the severity of the heavy rains by experiencing it the hard way as we went on the day out without taking an umbrella. The image on the left shows the perfect substitute for an umbrella (if only we could have more trees like this across Kolkata).

Week 2

Hey peeps, here’s Marco, in charge of telling you a bit about our second week in Kolkata!

After the chill first week in which we tried to acclimatize with the new environment, week 2 has seen us get more involved with the project. We have started collecting data from students in the college through the questionnaires and entered it in an Excel spreadsheet but have been struggling a bit with the responses given since sometimes the students had difficulties understanding some questions or they had simply forgotten to answer them. Hopefully now we should have found the best way to introduce the survey, so that next data will be more precise and complete.

Since I am the only white guy in the classroom where we hand in the survey I get a lot of curious looks. Unluckily, that also makes me the last person the students would ask a question to if they have any problem in understanding the survey, but I’m trying to work on that with wide smiles (Jacob says that then they will think I’m making fun of them, but he just likes to mess with me).

But well, enough of the project part, let’s pass to what we have actually done the first weekend! On Saturday, we visited the Flower Market, a Sikh temple and College street. The latter is famous for its huuuge book market: you can find anything from textbooks to second hand books in English or Hindi. The saying goes that if you don’t find a book in College Street, it probably doesn’t exist!

On Sunday, we decided to go and visit the temples with Sayun, an Indian intern at the Tata Medical Center. We first visited the Darkshineswar Kali Temple, one of the most famous temples in Kolkata, north of the city. Unluckily you are not allowed to bring any electronic device inside the temple, so the best shot we can give you is this photo of us with the temple in the background. In the photo from the left: Rachael, Raman, me, Sayun and Jacob.

After the Darkshineswar Kali Temple, we took a ferry to Belur Math, another impressive temple on the other side of the Hooghly River. A detail that we probably omitted so far is that in here, goras (which is the Hindi word with which white people are described) are popular. The word means blonde-haired person, which explains why Rachael has been asked to be part of no less than 20 photos since she got here. I also receive my share of photos’ requests, but I suspect I am just a sort of indirect way to approach Rachael later on. Well, all this just to say that finally in Belur Math we had our payback: after some guys asked us for a photo, we asked them the same thing, just to balance things out a bit.

Week 3

Third week in, it feels as though we are getting used to weather, language and food here in Kolkata.

Now that the questionnaires are modified and up-to-date, we just have to carry out the usual procedures at the college. Each time we go for the data collection Marco adds on to his tally of fan followers (he sure has the celebrity image around the college) and I’m sure that by the time we leave he will have a good fan base in India.

About the updates on the data collection. We have passed the halfway mark of the samples required and are trying to organise a session on Sunday to get a large group of 80 students in to help speed up the process. We are pushing to collect these data ASAP so we can start on the data analysis part before we finish which is a bit more interesting. We will be using SPSS which is a new software that both of us haven’t used in the past and we can use this to help develop some new software skills.

As you know, we have a background in finance and economics and were eager to understand the business model of an NGO. Our supervisor knew the CFO and kindly organised a meeting for us to sit with him and talk a bit on how this organisation is funded and what their aims and targets are.

We wanted to make the most of this internship so we asked if there was any additional projects we could help in. Fortunately, we were offered one project in which we had to help on the pricing system of a medicine and will start next week. One piece of advice I can give for you guys doing this next year is to make the most of the time here by looking for extra work and get in contact with as many people as you can – great practice for increasing your networking skills! This will be always be useful for the future. 

The exploration at this place never stops. I got a chance to visit the mothers house (the place where Mother Teresa lived until her death in 1997). It is a very peaceful place open for people to come and explore or just pray around the tomb of mother Teresa. A small museum had a collection of many of Mother Teresa’s possessions and a brief timeline of the major events that happened in her life. Other places ticked from the to-do list was the botanical garden, which has the great banyan tree and over 109 acres of land – this is a great little trip for those of you who like to get away from the city.

From reading up things to do in Kolkata one of the more commonly mentioned things to try was the tireatti bazaar (Kolkata’s Chinatown) where the Chinese breakfast, served only from 6:00-8:00, is a must. Hence, the alarms were set for an early wakeup; we began the day curious to try the food. However, arriving at 7:00 on a weekday proved to provide the optimal outcome as we could only get to try produce from 3 food stalls and had no dessert – the thing I was looking forward to the most!

After conversing with the locals, it transpired the best day to try the breakfast market was on a Sunday – quite disheartening considering the effort it took for us to get out of bed! By the time you read the next blog we are planning to have visited the food market on a Sunday and will be able to report to you!

Week 4

Hey everyone! Here’s Marco, again, telling you a bit about our 4th week!

So, the project we’ve been working on has been paused until further notice. The collaboration with the college department has ended, hence we don’t have more students to fill the surveys. To fill the void such pause provoked we stalked a bit the CFO for an alternative project. He came up with a task for each of us and now we’re back on track with something to do! Not that the other project wasn’t fine, but it consisted of data entry only and that can become quite monotonous if not mixed in with other activities to undertake.

Shifting to the spare time, this weekend Jacob left for a marriage in Kerala so I’m all alone (not true, I’m with the other interns from the guesthouse). We spent the weekend by visiting the many markets of Kolkata in which hawkers sell all kind of stuff. Bargaining is a must do to avoid getting ripped off. Besides that, we went to watch the Lion King in 3D in a cinema (and discovered that Indians put far too much air conditioning in there, we were freezing!). This week there was also my birthday and we dared trying an Indian pizza place. It has been some time now that we have all mainly been eating chicken, lady fingers and curry, so some western cuisine was more than welcome by our stomachs! That would be pretty much all for this week, so see you guys next week!

Week 5

The penultimate week. I can’t believe I am writing my last blog – time sure flies here!

Let me start by telling you how my weekend went in Kerala for my friend’s wedding while the others went to Darjeeling. To escape the humid weather in Kolkata, we took a trip to one hill station Thekkakdy, Idukki. An amazing scenic place, which is famous for its wildlife sanctuary and tea plantations. Going back to Kerala I finally got my hands behind the wheel, which was a relief from the public transport in Kolkata. I had previously driven in India, nevertheless it is always a challenge and once you’ve had some close calls you get used to the crazy driving here.

At Tata, they required me to create a process of the billing system of expensive medicines in the bone marrow transplant (BMT) ward. In the last audit there was an issue raised around over and under billing of patients, which needed to be rectified. Therefore, I created and presented an excel sheet which could be used in the ward and set a clear standard operating procedure (SOP) for them to follow. I got a chance to present this to the doctors and nurses in the ward, where they agreed upon giving the process a trial before implementing it in the hospital management system.

Some good news came from Techno India College about getting a batch of 100 students this coming Sunday. If we eventually get this number, we’ll be able to complete the data collection part for the project before we leave. Although we wouldn’t get a chance to analyse our data, I am sure the fellows working with us will carry this out and let us know the findings.

For the students looking to apply for the GEO internship next year I would recommend you make the most of your time by travelling around in India or other south Asian countries while you are here. Try to stay 2 weeks after your internship and utilise it. Also plan out the weekends efficiently so you can cover places according to your preferences.

Overall it’s been a great few weeks; fortunate enough to meet a lot of people, see some amazing places, engage in a different culture and taste some delicious variety of food. Marco will be writing the last blog and keep you updated on how we got on our final week.

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