Bhavana Nilangekar is working as an intern with the Cheslatta Carrier Nation as part of her MBA program. (Blair McBride photo)

From Indian metropolis to rural Canada

Burns Lake has drawn its fair share of people from far-off places.

But very few have gone from working and living in a city of 6.8 million people to doing an internship on the Southside.

One of those few is Bhavana Nilangekar, who hails from the south Indian metropolis of Hyderabad.

Bhavana arrived in Burns Lake at the beginning of October to do a one-year internship with the Cheslatta Carrier Nation as part of her Master of Business Administration (MBA) program at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo.

“I didn’t plan to leave India. Eventually I thought I needed a change of place and a change of mind. I read up on life in different countries and then I thought that Canada is very welcoming with immigrants and women,” she told Lakes District News.

She first came to Canada in July of 2018 and began studying in Nanaimo. Even though she liked Vancouver Island and got used to the lifestyle there, she had so many international and Indian classmates that it didn’t feel like a huge change for her.

The chance to work with the Cheslatta Carrier Nation came about when her school sent out a notice about internships through the Northern Development Initiative Trust, which promoted opportunities in smaller communities.

“When I got this opportunity, I understood that when you take chances or risks sometimes it’s not easy but that’s when you learn. When you get out of your comfort zone it’s then that you learn and you understand. It changes your perspective,” she said.

Some of the challenges she has faced include the size of the community, the lack of public transportation and the fact that in a matter of weeks she’ll have to get used to cold weather.

But the biggest challenge is being away from her family and 5-year-old daughter.

“I haven’t seen them for more than a year. I made a tough decision and that was one thing that was really holding me back. [At 5 years] is when children really start to develop their perspective on the world.”

Difficulties aside, Bhavana has found the Burns Lake community welcoming and friendly.

“In smaller communities I’m noticing that it’s more about being able to help each other.”

Some aspects of what local people take for granted as everyday life are eye-opening experiences for the young intern.

“In India on weekends people go to the movies. [But] people talk about hunting like they’re going to a movie. It’s normal here. I find that very interesting. You can see wildlife everywhere. If I told people back in India that I saw a bear it would be like breaking news,” she says with laugh.

Though she lives in Burns Lake, she works in the Cheslatta Carrier Nation office on the Southside and must take the ferry every day, which she says feels like being on a holiday.

“I like the scenery and I like that they try to maintain the nature and don’t disturb it too much.”

For her MBA, Bhavana wants to focus on financial analysis and she is grateful that through her internship she can work on a wider range of areas like governance, economic development, administration and recreation and culture.

Cheslatta Carrier Nation chief Corinna Leween said it has been a positive experience hosting an intern from such a different place.

“It’s good because people can casually chat about the different places they come from and learn about each others’ territories,” Leween said. “She’s very down to earth and humble. [And] we’re always teasing her and making sure she has a good winter coat.”

“I love the intern program and this has worked out well for Chelsatta. I really thank the universities and all those invovled in providing internships for people, and in providing support for small communities.”

Thinking ahead to the time after her internship, she is open to the possibility of working with Cheslatta Carrier Nation or going to another small community.

Wherever Bhavana goes, she appreciates the chance for personal growth that Burns Lake has given her.

“Only when you come here you see the challenges and learn how to overcome them. I think that’s one reason why I wanted to leave my country, to challenge myself. Coming here I took one step further and I can learn and grow more.”

Blair McBride
Multimedia reporter
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