STEP Project Reflection

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.I was a Global Markets Intern at the National Bank of Abu Dhabi in Mumbai. I worked primarily with the Head of Strategy and the Executive Director of Global Markets to help craft existing client profiles and target new clients operating within India and the GCC region. An NDA prohibits me from disclosing any particulars.
  2. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

Before this trip, I had never been outside of the United States. I knew that going to India would have to consist of an open mind and an appreciation to Southern Asian culture and all that entails. Getting off the plane in Mumbai I saw just how largely understated my assumptions of poverty were. Seeing the drastic change of these living conditions of extreme poverty next to extreme wealth made me empathize for how these people were living. After being there however, I realized that the people who live like this have no other option, some living with only a pair of shoes and a make-shift shanty. I grew to appreciate what America, as a culture, endures and has, as well as, grew to appreciate and accept the conditions I saw while away.

3. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during       your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

As I mentioned previously, I am now acutely aware of the conditions and differences in income that exist between class groups in Mumbai. I acquired this knowledge through firsthand exposure to the described areas including most notable, the Dharavi slums. These slums are one of the largest in Asia and the largest in India (this is where Slumdog Millionare was filmed). As I landed and made my way to the hotel, I noticed in this early morning hour that there were so many people on the streets working or interacting with friends and that almost every “house” I saw was a shanty. Just hundreds and hundreds of shanty’s lining the streets.

Within my first week in India, we (the group of interns at NBAD), had already traveled most of Mumbai from the most wealthy parts to the poorest. We had been to Colaba and resided in Kurla. The first week we were able to explore Kurla (an impoverished suburb of Mumabi) thoroughly. We walked the main road, which was heavily populated with people and very dirty and rural to find what we needed, as it was the first week there. We came across people that looked at us very oddly as well as people that would get down on their knees and kiss their hands towards us. This was a particularly enriching experience for me because it helped me realize that americans may not be something these people have ever seen or encountered before. There was also a steep learning curve regarding the fact that we wanted to fit in with how the people go about their daily lives (washing clothes in the street, milking goats, baking and preparing their modest corner stores for the day), as well as maintain safety precautions and be respectful as outsiders.

Finally, I just wanted to touch on what many people often underscore in their perceived images of India, as did I, is that it is a country of great wealth and one that has an extremely rich culture. Within Mumbai, I was exposed to some of the largest pockets of extreme wealth I had ever seen. For example, we worked in the area of Mumbai comparable to New York City (BKC), in a bank in a 12 floor building above one of two Ferrari dealerships in India. In areas such as Colaba, Churchgate, Worli, Lower Parel, Bandra, and Malabar Hill I saw everything from Lamborghinis, Ferraris and chauffer driven Rolls Royce’s cruising through towns to malls with more top designer brand name stores than I had ever seen in one location before. Another very fine example of wealth demonstrated in Mumbai is Mukesh Ambani’s home. He is the wealthiest person in India and built a $1 billion dollar home for his family of 5 and staffs over 400 servants. I bring these things up because when the average person pictures India and have not been before, they see the poverty in their minds and nothing else.. well this is completely wrong. Although India is still very much a developing country and many of its residents live in poverty, the entire country cannot and should not be generalized as being poor.

4. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/ or relates to your academic, personal, and/ or professional goals and future plans.

My time in Mumbai, India was transformative because I was able to see poverty and extremely poor living conditions that do not exist on a large scale in the United States. This alone, helped me put my life into perspective and be truly grateful for how I am able to go about living. It motivates me to want to do more to better communities around the world and make that accessible and desirable for americans to want to help other communities so we can all coexist happily and peacefully on this planet.

This experience was also extremely helpful with guiding my on a career path but I believe the experience of India will be remembered for most things outside of work. The hospitality demonstrated of people, the common stereotypes being broken and me witnessing that with my own eyes, and interacting with every day people whether that be on the streets, or getting to know our uber drivers on the way to and from work. It also made me appreciate greatly how blessed I am to live with simple things like clean running tap water and stable electricity. This was my first time traveling outside the United States and I am so exited to explore more of this amazing world we live in. This trip was just the beginning of my travels!