By Evan Jun Shum
I decided to invest my summer in India through a two-month internship program known as the Tata International Social Entrepreneurship Scheme in a desire to challenge myself outside my comfort zones. Programs in London, Tokyo or even Sweden are all fantastic opportunities. India, however, sat in my heart as a country filled with unfamiliarity and novel experiences.
I confirmed my decision to go to Mumbai after interviewing the program’s alumni from UC Berkeley and the University of Cambridge; they told me the experience would be two months of bold and perhaps even uncomfortable transition, but I saw that to be all part of the adventure.
During this internship in India, I worked in the corporate social responsibility department for Tata Capital, a subsidiary of Tata Sons — the single largest India-based business group in the United States. My assignments were sectioned into two parts: 1) to create an e-learning module about global warming and corporate sustainability and 2) to develop the foundational framework of an online education portal providing employees with volunteer opportunities within their communities.
After witnessing the poverty prevalent in these communities, I became aware that by no means was the solution to the issue in these villages obvious, and that any monetary handout that could be provided would not solve the larger existing issue. It was as much of an emotional struggle as it was stimulating to re-examine a new approach to the problem, but I believe all things of value do not come without some friction.
The second part of my project, creating a centralized forum to consolidate volunteering initiatives for the Tata Capital employees, would not only facilitate groupwide action, but also strengthen the community, the principle ingrained in the ethos of the Tata brand.
Through partnering with Tata Capital under the Tata ISES program, I had the opportunity to travel the country, work with a talented panel of nongovernmental organizations, and discover the joys of overtime.
India has challenged me to re-examine my post-graduate pursuits and consider a career in providing an infrastructure for those without the luxuries I have known my whole life. Working in corporate social responsibility, I saw India through different eyes; I saw the boldness of a corporate executive, the unwavering commitment of the middle-class father and the innocence of a child living on the streets. These were the faces of India I had so wished to see, and these are faces I had the privilege to experience.
I came to the country wanting to learn about its culture and color, and through Tata ISES, I had the privilege to do just that.
— Evan Jun Shum of Alameda will be a junior this fall at UC Davis.