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Shaalini Ganesalingam

Organization: Nilgiris Field Learning Center
Dates: 1/21/2017 to 05/05/2017
Web: Keystone Foundation

In Shaalini's own words

How I contributed:  The Keystone Foundation was established to promote sustainable livelihoods among the indigenous communities the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve. A partnership between Cornell University and Keystone created the Nilgiris Field Learning Center. Our class consisted of 8 Cornell students and 8 local indigenous students. As part of NFLC, our semester abroad was divided into two. For the first half of the semester we took classes on topics such as governance and livelihoods, gender anthropology, and public health. During the second half of the semester each Cornell student was paired up with an indigenous student to conduct research on various topics ranging from waste and water sanitation for communities along the Coonoor River to allopathic healthcare inaccessibility for the indigenous communities. Each with a different timeline, these research projects hope to inform interventions that Keystone can provide in the future for the betterment of these communities.

What I felt most challenged by:  I was most challenged by not being able to fit into either category of students. As the only Tamil speaking Cornell student, that was raised speaking Sri Lankan Tamil, watching tamil movies, and practicing Hinduism in NYC, I could draw connections to the lifestyles of my indigenous peers. However, being raised in Queens, NY not affiliated to any of the tribes found in the NBR there were many things that I was learning about the community and culture along with my Cornell peers. This program was invaluable in helping me unlearn assumptions I have developed about my identity as a Sri Lankan American Tamil and taught me to ask questions about my identity I had previously been too ignorant to ask.

What I enjoyed most:   I loved every single minute of my experience; its honestly so hard to choose. Even during challenging moments my peers and professors, as well as the Keystone faculty provided an immeasurable support, above and beyond the call of duty. I loved watching the sunsets on campus, watching the gaur from a safe distance as the grazed on campus, having tea breaks two times a day, traveling with my peers --my family away from home-- on Spring break, fleshing out complicated topics with our undeniably amazing professor Neema Kudva (as well as the rest of the teaching staff) and dance nights with my roommate and the indigenous girls, during which we exchanged lessons on how to dance salsa and kuthu. But perhaps most of all, I loved loved loved my research. I felt I was making an impact.

Would I recommend this experience:   I would definitely recommend this program for my peers. As students on campus we have access to much much theoretical knowledge. However, being on the field, seeing how systems work in person was incredibly eye-opening. Conducting my own research with the support of amazing Cornell and Keystone faculty members made me more confident in myself and entrenched my love for my major and minor. As a student we are told to be cautious of the assumptions we will make as we develop solutions to major social/economic/political/health-related problems. Yet seeing assumption play out in government, NGO and individual level interventions fleshes out the importance of thorough research and context based interventions.

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Caroline Motzer

Organization: Cornell Global Health India Program
Dates: 05/30/2017 to 07/28/2017
Web: India Summer Program

In Caroline's own words

How I contributed:  I created a booklet on local medicinal plants that the Swami Vivikenanda Youth Movement is using in various self help groups and educational programs to promote the use and cultivation of these plants.

What I felt most challenged by:  I felt most challenged by having to be independent for two months. I did not realize how dependent of a person I was until I came to a foreign country and lived there for two months. Having limited to access to friends and family was difficult but I learned how to cope with things by myself instead of always relying on others to help me through tough times.

What I enjoyed most: I enjoyed my stay at Kenchenhalli, a rural hospital the most because I was surrounded by nature and farmland. It was amazing to see all the the different agricultural practices they used in rural southern India. In addition, it was simply just so beautiful and relaxing.

Would I recommend this experience:  I would recommend this program to other students because I thought it was very well planned out and took a lot of the stress out of traveling internationally. It was nice to have leaders like Donna Ramil and Tara Sarkur to help you through the stresses of traveling to a new country. I liked how this trip had a clear schedule and a clear outline. This trip had a great support system.

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Bridget Conlon

Organization: Nilgiris Field Learning Center
Dates: 1/20/2017 to 5/6/2017
Web: Keystone Foundation

In Bridget's own words

How I contributed:  I worked on an ongoing research project that the NFLC and the Keystone Foundation will build upon in the future. My project was on infant and young child feeding and social support for tribal mothers. I worked on a team with a local student, B. Mahanathi. After analysis and preparation, we presented our work to community members from villages where NFLC research took place. We were able to present what we learned to a number of mothers that we had interviewed. Along with contributing to a body of knowledge, Mahanathi and I contributed to each other's understanding of local feeding practices and their implications for mothers and babies in tribal communities of the Nilgiris.

What I felt most challenged by:  It was difficult for me to adjust my behavior to be culturally appropriate at first. I am very friendly, and I would say hello to strangers on the road as we walked past them. My classmates told me that I shouldn't say hello to men I don't know, and that I shouldn't even make eye contact. That was very difficult for me because I feel very rude not making eye contact or saying hello back when a person says hello to me. It was also challenging for me to ask mothers for their time to interview them. Many of the mothers were tired and we were asking for a lot of their time. Also, we were not offering them any compensation for their time. During interviews, I felt very sensitive to their queues and would ask them if they needed to stop. I did not want to be a burden.

What I enjoyed most:  I enjoyed EVERYTHING. I enjoyed getting to know my Cornell peers, my Keystone peers, people from the communities, and staff at the Keystone Foundation. I enjoyed the food--idli, dosa, sambar, coconut chutney, paneer tikka rolls, chapatis, pigeon pea lentils, fresh young coconuts, red bananas, amla candy, and paneer butter masala! I enjoyed my research project and learning all sorts of different methods of researching. I enjoyed the Tamil language (by the very end, I was just starting to be able to understand so much more of it)! I enjoyed getting to know a new and wonderful place.

Would I recommend this experience:  I would absolutely recommend this program to other students. I was able to create my own experience despite all of the structure. We had so much guidance, yet we were able to let our minds run wild. The program was both fun and challenging, and I learned to think in new ways I had never thought before. For self-motivated students who want to learn and experience a new culture, I would highly recommend this program.

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Amy Garza

Organization: School for International Training, International Honors Program
Dates: 1/18/2016 to 5/7/2016

In Amy's own words

How I contributed:  The School for International Training, specifically the comparative International Honors Program, aims to give students an opportunity to examine a global issue through a comparative perspective. My program studied health, where we both lived and examined this issue in both urban and rural settings, as well as public and private. Throughout the rigorous program, we produced primary research dealing with a case study of our choice. My group looked at environmental injustices throughout each country, where we held interviews, took site visits, and explored these issues face to face. While all this experiential learning took place, we encompassed a theme of social justice and inspected the inter-sectionality of our program topic with other major global issues. Most of all, we conducted our travels and studies with a conscious and responsible traveler mindset, and were aware of our own positionality as we moved through each country. 

What I felt most challenged by:  Traveling through 3 different countries on 3 different continents, living in homestays in both urban and rural settings, and studying some of the deepest health issues in these countries, all gave way to a plethora of emotional, physical, and academic challenges. Most of all, however, was the ability to safely navigate through each location we were at and being aware of my “American privilege” and the impact that had on the spaces I went in. 

What I enjoyed most:  This unique comparative country program was extremely enjoyable for me because of the experiential learning component it had. We didn’t just learn in a classroom, but we learned through traveling throughout the country, embarking on site visits, and living in local homes of welcoming families. I saw the realness of the global health issues pressing us today. I didn’t study abroad and avoid issues of that given country. Besides this component, going through this experience with 30 other intelligent college students is unbeatable. I learned from their unique background, and they challenged my everyday way of thinking. It wasn’t easy or comfortable much of the time, but that’s what made my experience more enjoyable and enriching. 

Would I recommend this experience:  Of course! My program was academically challenging, while immensely profitable in expanding my analytic thinking, global perspective, and passion for social justice. Learning outside of the classroom is a unique experience that complements our time at Cornell perfectly. 

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Michaela Brown

Organization: Tata-Cornell Agriculture and Nutrition Initiative
Dates: 6/12/2015 - 8/1/2015

In Michaela's own words

How I contributed:  In this project, our team aimed to validate and improve upon a tool created by last year's group of interns to better link agriculture and nutrition in surveys.  Agriculture surveys rarely account for nutrition and nutrition surveys rarely account for agriculture, so TCI set out to create brief module that would account for nutrition that could be included in agriculture surveys.  I contributed to this project by refining and using this tool and analyzing its validity.  Furthermore, my team of interns created a module with which to assess diversity at the market level so that we could study how the food market impacts rural nutrition.

What I felt most challenged by:  The most challenging part of this trip was undoubtedly making a research project come together from start to finish in seven weeks.  We started with a goal in mind and the tool from last year, but from there our team was involved in every piece of research, from designing a new tool and refining the old one, data collection, data entry, data analysis and our final presentation.  Our team had to adapt quickly to new settings, as one week we were at the International Crops Research Institute campus (ICRISAT) designing a tool, then the next week we were in a new village and even a new village the week after that.  The pace of this project was challenging, but rewarding when it all came together.

What I enjoyed most:  I enjoyed fieldwork the most, as that consisted of interviewing people, living in villages, and getting to know new families.  It was duriing this portion of the process that I became great friends with my enumerator, saw a chicken curry come together (beginning from a live chicken), went without running water and mattresses, and felt sincerely welcomed into so many homes.  Going from house to house was exciting, as with each home I got to greet new faces and feel the warmth of hoospitality as people allowed me into their homes and offered me tea as they generously gave me their time to answer my questions.  My enumerator, Vidya had lived in the villages we collected date in, so she helped me get to know people in the villages.

Would I recommend this experience:  I would highly recommend this experience to anyone interested in agriculture, nutrition, research, and getting to know different cultures.  This project exposed me to new information regarding the nutritional issues in India, every aspect of the research process, and introduce me to professionals who have been doing what I dram of doing for their entire careers.  In all facets, this program helped me learn and I would certainly recommend that anyone interested in food, people, nutrition or research participate.

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Samsuda Khem-nguad

Organization: Keystone Foundation
Dates: 1/15/2015 - 5/15/2015
Web site:

In Samsuda's own words

How I contributed: Keystone Foundation is committed in working with the indigenous people of the Nelgiris Biosphere in a variety of ways.  During our time, we studied along side 5 other students from these indigenous communities.  I think we showed a lot of openness to learn about their culture, and they are also learnt a lot from in class materials as well as discussions.  This is sort of educational experience is partially what this organization strives to accomplish because it enables the Cornell students to understand a new way of thinking/a new paradigm, and allows the community students to learn more theoretical frameworks that may be useful in working in their communities as well.  Other than this, we also conducted a research in the villages together.  This research would continue through many generation of students, and would help set frameworks for the NGO's future works.

What I felt most challenged by: I felt most challenged by my feeling of "guilt".  When we go to a different region such as India - it is easy for one to determine that the people who we work with have less than we do, and feel guilty.  This feeling of guilt can lead to what I perceive as irrational actions - or people doing things because they don't want to feel guilty.  This was extremely frustrating to me, but it was really good that we also had an opportunity to talk about this feeling as a part of this course.  At times, I was also frustrated by what (I perceived as) our partner NGO's lack of organization.  Yet, it was a great opportunity for me to learn a different way of managing an organization!

What I enjoyed most: The course was very well designed as a whole.  I enjoyed all of it and feel very lucky to have gone.  The block system we used-different topic for each week- was very good.  I also like our field trips on Wednesdays, and the research phase on the second half of the semester was very very fruitful.  The tight knit relationship with both the organization's staff and Cornell Professors was something really special and hard to find on Cornell's enormous campus.

Would I recommend this experience: I would say yes, if that student has interest in sustainable development.  I don't think it is a program that would be applicable to everyone- but I think it is good for everyone in IARD.  It takes a very interdisciplinary approach and that is very useful.

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Alexander King

Organization: Tata-Cornell Agriculture and Nutrition Initiative
Dates: 7/14/2014 - 8/14/2014

In Alexander's own words

How I contributed: The goal of the Tata-Cornell Agriculture and Nutrition Initiative is to evaluate the links between agriculture, nutrition, poverty and food systems. My research focused on analyzing the private sector responses to iron deficiency throughout the country. Anemia and iron deficiency are widespread throughout India. As a result, there has been a recent emphasis on iron fortification from both the private and public sector. I contributed a list of iron-fortified foods currently available in the Indian market, an analysis of iron deficiency and its prevalence throughout the country, and four case studies based on interviews with product developers.

What I felt most challenged by: The most challenging aspect of this internship was trying to organize meetings with different private sector businesses. Because so much of my research hinged on the availability of others, I would have a changing work schedule. Some days, like when I would be waiting to hear back from businesses to interview, were very slow. Other days were long, with lots of time spent being transported to and from offices and doing write up evaluations after. Working in Mumbai demands a flexible schedule.

What I enjoyed most: The best part about this internship was the holistic insight it gave me into development. With my work, I was able to meet with high-level executives, directors of NGOs, and top academics, all trying to solve massive nutrition problems faced by India. Working with distinct stakeholder groups, I was able to see how these groups approached problems differently and how those differences manifest themselves in the market. The most interesting part was experiencing how the different approaches worked together to accomplish the common goal of decreasing iron deficiency- or in certain cases hindered success.

Would I recommend this experience: I would definitely recommend this program to other students. Working with TCi was one of the most rigorous and rewarding parts of my college experience. The program allowed me to interact with people who have significant impacts on the field of development, while getting quality support from Cornell. I also had the unique opportunity of staying at a university, meaning I was living on campus with other local students. This was a great way to meet new friends. The program also continues into the fall semester where interns continue researching a topic of interest.

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Annelise Schuepbach

Organization: Alliance for Global Education: Contemporary India, Pune
Dates: 25-Aug-13 - 19-Dec-13

In Annelise's own words

How I contributed: My internship experience allowed me to do a comprehensive analysis of a microinsurance program and, through the information I gathered firsthand along with additional research, make a set of concrete recommendations to improve the program. My supervisors reported that they found my efforts very beneficial to their mission and organization as a whole.

What I felt most challenged by: The cultural differences surrounding methods of communication posed a significant challenge to me because it made it hard to navigate working with multiple supervisors.

What I enjoyed most: I felt as though my experience was mutually beneficial for both me and the organization. I was proud to be working there and grew from the experience and my supervisors felt similarly.

Would I recommend this experience: I would recommend it to other students, but not all students. India was a challenging environment and I think it is imperative that a student chooses to go there for the right reasons and is willing to have a constructive attitude throughout their time there.

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Elizabeth Camuti

Organization: The Alliance for Global Education
Dates: 10-Jun-12 - 5-Aug-12

In Elizabeth's own words

How I contributed: At the NGO I worked at, Sendriya Setu, I contributed by helping them organize a media conference to get the word out about the organization and promote the consumption of organic vegetables. They were disappointed by the level of media coverage they were getting and I helped organize a conference for journalists to come out to the farms and learn about what the farmers did and why it was important. At the Indian Express, I was writing many articles and helping the paper go to print on a daily basis.

What I felt most challenged by: Personally, at the Indian Express, I often felt like my bosses' were giving the Indian interns more work and attention than they were giving me so I really had to dig deep into myself to try and be more assertive and talk to my bosses when I felt I could handle more work and responsibility.

What I enjoyed most: I really enjoyed getting to work at a job I would have pursued in the United States, in a different country. I know what it's like to work for a newspaper in the United States, and getting to do the same in India gave me a different perspective on the industry and the similarities and differences between countries. Also being in India was cultural overload in the best way possible ... nothing really compares to the sights, smells and sounds that you encounter while in India.

Would I recommend this experience: I would recommend my program to other people because it gave a good balance of interacting with other US students and local people. It was nice to have American students to relate to, but not in a way that hindered my ability to integrate into my surroundings. They were also incredibly helpful in helping me find a good, legitimate internship.

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Thomas Johnson

Organization: Mahyco
Dates: 3-Jun-12 - 30-Jul-12

In Thomas's own words

How I contributed: I think that the organization did a great job of welcoming me and integrating me into the program. On a daily basis, I worked with my team members to help develop the third generation of the Nitrogen-Use-Efficiency rice variety. In addition, me and one other lab mate worked to create and complete an experiment that tested rice salinization tolerance to Aluminum Chloride.

What I felt most challenged by: One of the biggest personal challenges that I faced while in India was during meal times. Indian cuisine is rich in spices and very different from what I eat in America. In the beginning, I really struggled while trying to adapt, but eventually I found out what / I liked and did not like and grew to enjoy Indian food. American food now tastes extremely bland to me ever since returning from India.

What I enjoyed most: Immersing myself in the Indian culture. It is very easy to be ethnocentric while living in America, but living in India for 2 months really opened my eyes. I absolutely loved the people. They were extremely warm and welcoming and really made this trip so enjoyable.

Would I recommend this experience: It was a fabulous experience that allowed me to grown personally, professionally, and academically.

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Sally Hartwick

Organization: Food for Life Vrindavan
Dates: 26-Dec-11 - 20-Jan-12

In Sally's own words

How I contributed: We aided them in daily routines such as handing out meals to the community, and also examined some of their inadequacies of improving health, etc.

What I felt most challenged by: It was difficult to work with many other students and make group decisions with such different backgrounds, we had to spend a lot of extra time working to improve communication between and within disciplines.

What I enjoyed most: Working with children and experiencing the culture, independent from the safety of school programming

Would I recommend this experience: It was eye opening but requires a lot of self motivation and independence to accomplish goals

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Morgan Shaver

Organization: Food for Life Vrindavan
Dates: 26-Dec-11 - 26-Jan-12

In Morgan's own words

How I contributed: "Food for Life Vrindavan is dedicated to the poorest of the poor, educating and guiding them in pursuance of a fulfilling life, enabling them to become exemplary members of society. FFLV is also dedicated to protecting and developing Vrindavan's natural environment." My work focused on Nutritional Education to promote food familiarity and defeat neophobia (where the kids were picking out food from their meal because they didn't know what it was and why it was important for their bodies)

What I felt most challenged by: One personal challenge I had was saying goodbye to the kids; it was so incredibly hard to part with them after all the growth I saw within them and the relationships we built. I dealt with this "challenge" by going back to the school for a follow-up project in July!

What I enjoyed most: The people: giving to them and learning even more from them. They were just incredibly fantastic!

Would I recommend this experience: Because I helped me realize the direction I want to go with my passions

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