A Glimpse Beneath the Surface

By Seth Robinson

There are many ways you can experience a place, by travelling, going on exchange, living, or working. The New Colombo Plan funded International Business Experience in India offers Business and Economics students another unique perspective. For Simone Scott-Stevenson, it was a chance to go beneath the surface and glimpse the difference between life and tourism.

Simone Scott-Stevenson applied for the study tour in India in the hope that it would offer up a new perspective and insight into India, somewhere she had travelled to previously. For her, it was an opportunity to spend the summer doing something completely new.

“I didn’t really know what to expect when I got in. I was intrigued, and from what I’d heard from previous students say it sounded really interesting. I really wanted to see what India was like from a different perspective. I’d been there before as a traveller, so this was a chance for a slightly new take.”

Simone Scott-Stevenson (left), and friends.

For Simone, a big part of the tour was reconciling her personal knowledge of India and its role on the world stage, with her previous experience as a traveller.

“I think there’s this sense of India as this chaotic, crazy, colourful place, with so much going on all the time, that’s what you see from the backpacker side. At the same time, it’s a major economy, so there’s this question of ‘how does normal life operate?’ I think that’s where I started to get value from the study tour, through things like the organisational visits,” says Simone. “We visited a variety of companies, media agencies, sport, some tech startups, and a visit to EY. I was really interested in the latter, because I thought there’d be some great insights from seeing another branch of this global organisation. We asked them questions about things like gender equality. They talked to us about the cultural challenges, and the policies they’d instigated to improve things like safety, which they were very proud of. It was interesting, seeing how this issue was approached given the different cultural context and how it compares to workplaces in Australia.”

Along with the professional organisation visits, the study tour group were given the opportunity to engage in cultural activities, and a visit to Shri Ram College, where they connected with local students.

“We worked on a case project together, which gave us a chance to experience the different work styles and expectations. All of the students there were incredibly switched on and engaged with what they were doing. I think one of the things that stuck with me most though were the similarities, they watch the same TV shows, have the same kinds of in jokes with their friends, they’re interested in the same things and they want the same things from life. It was one of those moments we really got to glimpse beneath the chaotic, tourist veneer. It was the same when it came to our cultural components. All of our guides were locals, so as we did these things like Bollywood dancing, yoga, and tours of old Delhi, we were given their personal insights. It really rounded out the trip, supplementing the educational and professional excursions.”

In terms of funding, the grant Simone received from the New Colombo Plan made all the difference.

“I don’t think I would have gone on the trip if it weren’t for that funding. I think a big part of that is because I’d been before, so there was that questions of ‘why go back?’ and of course, having to take that time off work is always hard. I would’ve missed out on this huge opportunity, because the experience was amazing, it absolutely exceeded my expectations. So that funding opened a lot of doors for me.”

Now, as Simone considers what comes next at the end of her degree, she already has a return trip to India booked in, to celebrate a friend’s wedding. While it’s hard to say exactly what the future holds, the study tour has expanded her understanding of an entire region, and one of the world’s largest emerging economies.

Interested in taking part in the International Business Experience in India? Find out more about our next intake here.