Dear Wellesley: Grace Ming '18 Writes from Mumbai Where She’s Interning with a Local Think Tank

August 5, 2016

Our 2016 Summer Postcard Series continues with a note from Grace Ming '18 who writes from Mumbai where she’s participating in a Global Engagement Internship through Wellesley's Center for Work and Service.

Dear Wellesley,

I'm writing to you from my last few days in Mumbai. It's a bittersweet feeling as the hour of my flight approaches. Along with a fellow Wellesley Student, Maureen McCord '18, I have been doing a CWS Global Engagement internship with a local think tank, Observer Research Foundation Mumbai (ORF) for the past two months. Having adjusted to a daily rhythm in this bustling city—between working, spending time with coworkers, exploring the city, and reflecting on it all along the way—the question I face as it all comes to an end is, where do I go from here?

Just in our corner of the city, Colaba, the southern tip of the peninsula, there has been so much to keep us busy this summer. Wellesley CWS had graciously housed us in a fantastic location; a walk ten minutes or less in any direction could bring us to countless street shops along Colaba Causeway, art galleries and historical museums in the Kala Ghoda art district, the historical Regal Cinema, the signature sight of the Gateway of India, and so much more.

When we've ventured out to other parts of the city, braving monsoon rains and notorious Mumbai traffic, what we’ve done is barely a glimpse of all it holds. It is great to know there's always something special and out of the ordinary to do on the weekends, like visit ancient caves at the national park, or find top-rated restaurants with regional foods around the city. But for me, it’s getting to know the places and people right around the block really well that has created a sense of familiarity and home in the midst of all the excitement around me.

Our daily 15 minute walk to work brings us to the ORF office, just off the expansive scenic Marine Drive, where the heart of our internship experience happens. The bulk of ORF’s work as a think tank is publishing reports and proposals in topics affecting the city of Mumbai, covering education, health care, urban planning, international relations, sanitation, and more. These are sent to relevant governing bodies of Mumbai and its state, Maharashtra, for review and implementation.

There are about 20 researchers at the moment who are working on projects in each of their focus areas, such as special education reform, Mumbai’s public spaces, Pakistan-India peace initiatives, a new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, etc. We interns help in any way possible, and in the process, get a chance to learn about our passionate coworkers' projects. I've taken the unofficial position as resident graphic designer, designing whatever may come my way. Not only have I learned more about Mumbai and the state of Maharashtra, but I've also been getting valuable practice with design skills and software.

Ten weeks here have left me with so much gained—in friendships, work experience, academic inspirations and invaluable memories—yet still so much I wish I could explore. It's a familiar feeling I've had after living anywhere for a longer time, having adapted to a new normal, and realizing I'm leaving it all at once on one swift flight. While most of me has been focusing on what's left to do while I'm here—how to leave friends I may or may not see ever again, how to make the most of the remaining days in Mumbai—I try to remember that the enriching experiences over the past two months won't come to an end. I try to remember that we are blessed with technology that allows me to keep in touch with the people that I've met. I remind myself that these experiences that have added to my knowledge and perspectives can continue to open doors to future conversations, friendships, work, or research.

And, who knows, maybe it will end up bringing me back to the city of Mumbai.


Grace Ming '18