Namaste! Going somewhere like Pune, India had been a dream of mine since high school and finally having the opportunity to fulfill my thirst for travel and culture is something I will forever be grateful for. In order to make the most of my experience, I set goals for myself to accomplish.
Here’s how I found a whole new world perspective and achieved those goals in pictures…
To start, I made sure my goals were attainable and realistic. I didn’t expect for India to be a complete rebirthing experience like many Westerners romanticize the country to be.
My main goal was to see as much of the country as I possibly could and some of what I saw was shocking.
There was dirt, pollution and poverty that littered the streets and it was easy to get distracted from the reasons why I had gone to the country in the first place.
Living with an Indian host family composed of my host mom and dad, 3 Indian host sisters and 2 American host sisters in the program prepared me for the challenging road ahead.
They taught me patience, cultural norms and expectations as a part of their family. Although I showered from a bucket and had a few shelves for my belongings, I had my host parents and host sisters supporting me.
When you are stripped down to your necessities it is easier to reflect on the things that matter most. It’s a spiritual and freeing experience to hand-wash your clothes each week and rely on a single backpack full of medicine, a toothbrush and clean underwear to take on the world.
For those of you reading this that are planning on going abroad, I HIGHLY encourage that you dedicate 10 minutes a day before you go to bed to keep a journal and write what you saw or did and how you felt.
You can really capture the beauty of an experience by simply putting it into your own words.
There are a few ways you can achieve this. A personal journal of thoughts and feelings that you keep for yourself as a reflection on your experience is extremely valuable and a great memento from your time abroad. Also, keeping a blog to share with others and writing for an audience can help guide your writing and make you focus on details that you might otherwise forget.
The longer you spend in your abroad country, the more “normal” each day becomes and little important details can be forgotten. I got so used to eating all of my meals on the floor with my host family and proper etiquette became so ingrained in me that when I returned back to the states, it occurred to me how much more of an intimate experience eating with my hands was that I may forget as the days away from India pass…
Making Plans and Asking For Help
The study abroad experience as a whole is a time to explore different parts of the world and parts of yourself. It is important then when reaching for your goals abroad, you make concrete plans and take steps to get there. Luckily, the IFSA staff on-site and in the USA does everything they can to make your trip a successful one!
In preparation for travel week, I expressed my interest in visiting Nepal over dinner and my whole host family was so excited and wanted to help. My host sister helped me book plane and train tickets (often using her Indian credit card since sometimes mine wasn’t authorized) and made it possible for me to reach my goals and see as much of South Asia as I can.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There is such a huge support system available to you and they will do whatever they can to help you achieve your goals abroad.