It was my dream to be part of IIFT fraternity. Specifically, I wanted to get a flavor of how international trade functions. It was a dream come true for me to get an opportunity to work at OECD headquarters in Paris. This internship was not only about two months’ long work on a project, but also a marvelous experience in its own way - flying for first time, opening the doors for cross-cultural engagement, developing global mindset, diving into public policy complexities, exposure to functioning of international bodies and opportunities for unlimited networking.
Prior to the Journey
My internship preparation started 3 months back when I was still thinking about the number of days I should be staying in Europe, apart from the 2 month long internship. After all, it was lifetime opportunity to travel alone across the continent for more than 3 weeks which I wanted to enjoy to the fullest and I did just that. Preparation went on full swing with days and weeks of planning, thinking, rethinking, looking for apartment on AirBnb, and preparing a list of things to buy - from food to fashion, from medicines to visiting cards.
My Project at OECD
I was placed in Trade in Services Division under one of major directorates - Trade and Agriculture. My project was based on Service Trade Restrictiveness Index (STRI), which is a comprehensive regulatory database tool covering 18 services sectors across 40 countries. This project was highly important in global context where service sector accounts for major GDP contribution in developed countries and major developing economies like India. My responsibility was to carry out research work on 7 out of 18 Indian services sectors and analyze its laws and regulations on trade in services by foreign firms in India.
My research work also focused on how services trade policy helps government to improve its trade performance. I believe this work is very relevant when India has embarked on “Make in India” initiative- an agenda to develop the Indian manufacturing sector. This research focuses on backward linkages of services sector with manufacturing sector. STRI provides a unique opportunity to Indian government and policy makers to analyze and compare its services sector, and to access services reforms which can trigger a virtuous circle of highly productive services, feeding into an expanding manufacturing sector.
I had a cool Italian guy as a mentor. The team diversity was at its zenith in terms of cultures and nationalities. Their high credentials and vast experience gave me some of the best learning experiences on trade policy and research. However, classroom learning focused on International Economics and Trade Subjects back at IIFT helped me a lot to sail through the curriculum there.
OECD as Work Organisation – Great learning opportunity
Work culture at OECD is just awesome. First of all, you get to interact with professionals from countries whose name you may have not come across. OECD hosts series of international conferences and discussion forums on multi-lateral policy issues throughout the year. I was told by my mentor to attend any conference which interests me. Hence it was my routine to attend at least 2-3 conferences every week which varied from understanding civil services performance measurements in Latin America to listening to world figures like UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and George Soros-“The Man Who broke Bank of England”. It was great learning experience to see how a high profile international round table discussion unfolds where G20 and OECD member countries discussed “Post Bali WTO trade negotiations”.
OECD provided me a platform to do extensive networking. I got an opportunity to meet some amazing people from OECD staff, policy makers, educationists, economists, ministers, diplomats and industry body representatives. Every Monday I booked appointments with new people for rest of the week during lunch and evening coffee time. I felt proud to find four Indians working in OECD and people passionately asking us about India. These interactions made me realize how India is seen as next economic and political power in the world.
Fun outside organisation
OECD hires interns from across the globe and does it throughout the year. Hence, the newly created official interns group became the most happening thing for us. We used to meet for coffee or lunch whenever a new intern joined us or someone left. Every “Thursday night after work drink” was full of international discussions, understanding each other’s culture and listening to their amazing life experiences, goals and philosophy. It was fun to try speaking basic French among friends. It took a hell lot of efforts to pronounce the word “Monsieur” correctly.
In the evenings and weekends, I became an art-lover Parisian. Having memorized a phrase “Paris is more beautiful in dark”, I spent many nights on its scenic streets, artistic sideways, “La Seine” riverside and historical bridges. Paris has 37 bridges across La Seine, each has its unique history, build over different centuries including most famous Pont Alexandre III and Pont de Bir-Hakeim. I developed interest to visit each of these bridges and take photos there. Even if you are not art lover, you tend to fall in love with museums in Paris. I spent couple of Friday evenings in Musée du Louvreobserving world’s largest collections of paintings, decorative arts, ancient civilizations artifacts, Islamic art and what not. Visiting Musee Guimet – National museum on Asian Art made me think about how well Europeans have preserved Indian art and culture on their lands, whereas we fall behind in preserving our own culture.
Ultimate Solo backpacking for 21 days
“Self indulgence – The perfect reason to travel solo.” This was my first solo journey of 21 days visiting 15 cities in 8 countries and travelling approximately 6500kms. One day I was sunbathing on the blue beaches in French Riviera and the other day I was walking on via dei fori imperiali to listen to “The Great Roman Saga” in Rome. Europe has its unique hostel system; most of the hostels are located near to city centre. You live with locals, indulge in local food, music, drinks and festivals, and preserve some of the best memories for lifetime.
It is difficult to conclude what I experienced during those 3 months, but I can definitely say it has changed my perceptive and attitude towards life.