Mitansh Jaisinghani (BB1)
Interned at Nanda Devi National Park for Azim Premji University
Domain: Data Collection on Climate Change
About the Internship:
My internship was focused on collecting data in the field of climate change for Azim Premji University. It was for their upcoming event called the "Forest of Life," centred around the evolving nature of forests and their connection with our lives. The festival is scheduled for November and December this year, during which the report of data we gathered will be presented to students. Given that these students are in their developmental stages, this information will aid them in forming well-informed perspectives on climate change.
Azim Premji University wanted to recruit enthusiastic interns from across India and send them to various forests of their choice. I opted for Nanda Devi National Park primarily because it is located in Nanda Devi, India's highest peak entirely contained within the country. Additionally, I had a strong desire to visit the Himalayas. Therefore, this internship was a fantastic opportunity for me.
While in Nanda Devi National Park, I trekked for around 300 kilometres, dedicating half a month to collecting valuable data for my project.
Initially, I had been searching for a foreign research internship which involves travelling, as I love exploring new places. However, my plans took a turn when I received an email from the National Social Service (NSS). They informed me about an internship opportunity launched by Azim Premji University on climate change. Intrigued, I went to explore the details on their website.
I have always felt a strong connection with forests and nature. Despite hailing from a city, I experience an inexplicable attachment to the soil and fresh air whenever I find myself in a forest. It's as if I am sharing a different part of myself.
This internship was not driven by the usual motives of enhancing my CV, as it falls outside the conventional path most students here follow. While it may not substantially boost my resume, it was a purpose born out of a personal desire. I was driven by my passion to positively impact climate change action, raise awareness about it, and immerse myself in the natural world. That's why I eagerly grasped this unique opportunity.
Perception, Intimidation, and Social Influence:
One of my internship's most intriguing aspects was the lack of internet connectivity in the forest. It was a unique, detached experience, with ice all around. During the day, temperatures ranged from 10 to 15 degrees Celsius, dropping to as low as minus 5 degrees Celsius at night. When I returned from the forest, I shared stories on Instagram. A friend interning in London for a summer research project messaged me, saying I had landed the "coolest" internship, as it was around a cool area, and the story showed a view of snow.
So, it was not me but others intimidated by the extraordinary experience I was getting through my internship. I've always been someone who defines my path rather than being swayed by what others are doing. I'm still uncertain about my future – whether to enter the corporate world, pursue research, or take a master's program. However, I know that my underlying focus will be to impact nature and people positively. This internship was also aligned with those values, bringing me a sense of satisfaction and connection to the world.
Pre-Internship Preparations: Apprehensions and Set-Backs:
Upon receiving the email about the 'Forest of Life' Festival, I was very excited. It sounded like an opportunity to engage in something I loved – spending time in a forest. Initially, I thought the internship would span three months, aligning perfectly with my summer plans. I imagined immersing myself in the culture of the Northeast and exploring the region.
However, as I began to fill out the application form, I noticed that the internship's dates were from 15th February to 15th April, which unfortunately overlapped with my semester. At that time, I was heavily involved in several commitments, including being an activity head in the Rendezvous Marketing team, doing an internship in Product Management and Content Creation, and regularly attending classes. My semester attendance was 85% around that time, indicating that I was already pushing my limits.
Consequently, I decided to explore Sanjaywan, which is near IIT Delhi. Unfortunately, by the time I submitted my form, someone else from IIT Delhi had booked the spot at Sanjay Van. They then suggested that I research urban forests near my location, but I was interested in something other than urban forests. So, I began zooming out on the map and stumbled upon Nanda Devi National Park in Uttarakhand, an area my father had suggested due to its abundance of forests.
Nanda Devi National Park, located in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, near the Indo-Tibetan border, immediately fascinated me. The pictures and information about the park were compelling, and I was determined to go there. However, the park only opens after 1st May due to the climate. This news again sent my happiness to rock bottom. I proposed that they allow me to go to Nanda Devi after its opening, emphasising its importance in my application. I also elaborated on my affinity for urban forests but expressed a stronger desire to be in a national forest surrounded by nature.
To my delight, they approved my request to visit Nanda Devi after 1st May. My final exams were scheduled from 1st May to 11th May, and as soon as they concluded on the 11th, I wasted no time. On the morning of 12th May, I boarded a bus and departed for my dream destination.
The Internship: Experience, Challenges and Takeaways:
My internship was divided into two phases. During the first phase, I ventured into the forest alone. I needed a permit to access the forest from the Sub-District Magistrate's (SDM) office because it's near the sensitive Indian-Tibetan border. The terrain is challenging, and it's uncommon for individuals to receive permission to go solo. However, given my educational purpose of researching climate change and my confidence, I convinced them to grant me the permit. This solo experience taught me a valuable lesson – that you should not go alone.
Going solo was daunting. I had no friends, and I couldn't enjoy my favourite food. The absence of conventional sources of dopamine, like being with friends, having your favourite food, or having access to the internet, was challenging. There was no one to share my experiences with, to laugh with, or to report back to about my adventures. However, there were military base camps with Wi-Fi, which allowed me to send reassuring messages to my worried family at home.
In the next phase, I decided to take a friend with me, and it turned out to be the best experience. Without the distractions of the internet and modern conveniences, it was just us, the natural surroundings, animals, and insects. Everything about this phase was delightful.
I only had brief internet access for about five minutes once every two days. During those moments, I would quickly message my father to let him know I was okay. This experience taught me the importance of being independent and content with your own company, disconnecting from the world, and not constantly comparing yourself to others. It's a unique experience that everyone should try at least once.
One significant takeaway from this project was my visit to a village at the highest point in the region, at an altitude of 3728 metres. The residents there were facing a concerning issue: due to the melting glaciers near their village, the temperature had dropped in the short term. While they used to be able to inhabit the area for six months, they could now only stay for four months. It highlights the impact of climate change in remote, less-visited regions that remain relatively untouched by human civilization.
The experience also made me realise the importance of friends, as I found it challenging to be without them during my time in the forest.
1) My first advice is to check your IIT Delhi webmail for valuable opportunities regularly. This email service can be a great asset. One of my friends secured an internship at an amusement park in this manner. His job was to test amusement rides, and he was paid a significant amount, which exceeded the average third-year internship salary. So, stay active in your search and watch your email for such opportunities.
2) You can participate in events like SATTE, where travel associations network and collaborate. These gatherings provide an opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals, which will eventually help you to grab an internship of your choice.
3) It's not necessary to follow the crowd or have your entire future mapped out. You don't have to engage in something you're not passionate about. Instead, focus on what's in front of you, whether next summer, the upcoming month, or the current semester. It's not mandatory to know what you are going to do next. Just be yourself, pursue your interests, and keep pushing until you discover what truly resonates. Avoid settling for anything less, and don't be swayed by others’ preferences. Seek out what genuinely appeals to you.