Until a year ago, 23-year-old Pooja Nayak was living the conformist life. She graduated with a degree in mass media and followed it up with a post-graduation in journalism. She then worked for an English news channel for a little more than a year only to realise that that was precisely what she didn’t want to do. “It felt really long since I’d been challenged about anything. I was frustrated, stuck in a rut,” she writes in an email to Hindustan Times. So she quit — only to realise she didn’t know what to do.
So she applied to AIESEC, an international student organisation that promotes cross-cultural exchanges between youngsters from different countries. Several applications and interviews later, she landed a three-month paid internship in Finland. On January 10, 2009, Nayak touched down amidst freezing temperatures in the Finnish capital of Helsinki.
She says, “Finland was not my first choice. But the ‘Global Me’ project was exactly what I was looking for.”
The project involves going to high schools in different cities around Finland and holding workshops and seminars on global issues like sustainable environment, intercultural communication, human trafficking, alternative educational techniques and refugee migration.
Her pastimes include skating on frozen lakes, sweating it out in saunas and sipping cups of latte at the local café. But for Nayak, the best part about the project is interacting with and learning about her colleagues from 11 countries. She writes, “Even a cup of coffee with my Colombian colleague as we await our turn at the shower becomes enriching.”
She admits, “I’ve never taught a class in my life, so the idea of teaching Finnish students is challenging and appealing at the same time. I finally feel like I’m doing something honest, something tangible.”