What’s it like to be a Royster Lawton Fellow? Payton Souders reflects on her summer internship
Hello, my name is Payton Souders, an incoming third year student at UVA, majoring in Global Development Studies and minoring in Social Entrepreneurship. I spent my summer in New Delhi, India interning for Mrida Group, an up and coming for-profit company that specializes in rural development and creating market linkages for rural artisans and farmers. Mrida has brought electricity to over 3,000 rural Indians, as well as job training, microloans, and feminine hygiene products. Specifically, my job was to work with a group of 13 women in rural Uttar Pradesh, India that operate a stitching center in their village. Over the course of the summer we worked together to develop three new products: a wrap skirt, a pajama pant, and a wrap pant. I also helped implement internal stock keeping and costing for the pants. I never envisioned myself working in fashion, but completing these projects showed me that I am more capable than I thought.
On top of all of the amazing experiences I had in my internship, I was also able to travel every weekend with the other three UVA interns I lived with in Delhi. Some highlights were white water rafting down the Ganges river, seeing Mount Everest up close from a plane, and of course, visiting the Taj Mahal. Through these travels I was able to experience the diversity of Indian culture up close and personal, and all of the amazing people I met along the way will remain in my memory forever (as will the food). Although we saw six different cities in Northern India, there is still so much left for me to see, and I cannot wait to return.
My favorite travel destination had nothing to do with tourism, however. The company that I worked for in Delhi was kind enough to send me to the village in which the women I worked with lived, called Faridapur Inyat Khan. On two separate occasions I sat with the thirteen young women as they worked on new orders, including the new pants we had designed together. Although there were huge cultural and language barriers, connecting with these women and their families was such an invaluable experience for me. Before this experience, I had always known that I was interested in development work. After meeting these women and hearing their enthusiasm to work and break norms in their village, all of my ambitions were confirmed. Now that I am back at UVA, I have a better understanding of how to plan for my future and fulfill my dreams after college - all thanks to this summer.
I learned so much during this internship and had experiences I never could have dreamed of - such as bargaining with our Delhi fabric sourcer or practicing Hindi with the village children in Uttar Pradesh. Everything in India seemed outside of my comfort zone at first, but by the end of those two months, I could not have felt more in my element. A global internship is such a good way to discover yourself professionally and personally, and I could not have done so without the support of the Royster-Lawton fellowship. Thank you for reading about my experience, and if you have any questions about global internships, the fellowship, or anything else, please feel free to reach out!