As I do not plan on taking my laptop with me to India, nor do I know if I will have the time or internet capabilities to type, I have decided to keep a notebook throughout the entire experience. At the end, I will type up thoughts/experiences that I think will be most helpful; please keep in mind we will depart the U.S. on March 9th, landing in India on March 11th and depart India on March 25th, landing in the U.S. on the 25th.
- (03/11/2018) At approximately 4 a.m. today, we finally made it to our first hotel. The flight here was way more comfortable than I had anticipated as I had never been on a plane for more than 6 hours and had never flown with Emirates. We are currently at a retreat called Zorba the Buddha and I am too excited to sleep before our meeting at 9 a.m. My initial thoughts from the airport to here are as follows: How can the air be of such a different quality here? I had heard about the amount of stray dogs in India and been given the advice not to pet them, but I did not imagine it being this difficult! They are everywhere, malnourished, often limping, and craving attention. While I grew up in the South of the United States and have been exposed, probably, to most Washingtonians to a plethora of firearms, the sheer volume of men I have seen walking around with shotguns and assault rifles is eery. I have had more than the normal amount of urges to drink water now that I am in a place where you have to be cautious of your water source. How do I already have 5 mosquito bites?
- (03/13/2018) Today we went to Jamia Millia Islamia University, were put into small groups, and given campus tours by current students. While this activity may seem pretty surface level, it created a safe space for me to ask someone my age direct questions about the current political climate and the implications to female students. My guide, while at first a bit reserved, really opened up and provided some honest, insightful commentary to my questions. A few occurrences during our time on campus really opened my eyes to the regression on women’s freedoms and I am looking forward to staying connected to my guide.
- (03/15/2018) I do not know where to begin in regards to debriefing my experience today. We were taken to a park to meet with a group of domestic workers that belonged to a union. Listening to these women’s’ stories, the violence and oppressors they face within their everyday lives, and how the unionization has helped them was inspiring, to say the least. A common occurrence I have seen throughout my time so far in India is the hospitality. We have met with individuals and groups who have very little, who would be considered extremely poor by U.S. standards, but always ensure that we, as guests, our greeted with tea, cookies, and crackers, or tea, naan, and a side. While these gestures warm my heart and help to make me feel like they really want to talk to us, not that our visits are being forced upon them, it also makes me sad in a way. They are willing to give their extra bits or go without in order to provide these, but I do not think this is a common practice for the majority of Americans. There have really only been a handful of times that I have experienced a similar greeting within the United States, even if those being met with are affluent. Why is this? Meanwhile, these women have so little, are enduring so much, and did not even think twice about sneaking away from work to meet with us, act as great hosts, and start a dance party with smiles, music, and their children before we parted ways today.
- (03/17/2018) After being here for almost a week, I am coming to the point where I am exhausted. They warn you about this, you know, the fatigue, the change in your body’s normal cycles, being in constant communication and a close knit proximity to the group, the heat, etc., but you are almost too busy to let any of it affect you, until it all hits you at once. I have seen some people completely crash or let it bottle up until they take it out on an innocent victim. This trip is also emotionally training in different ways. We have met with a ton of brave women and young girls; ones with unbelievable stories, journeys, and inspiring dreams. We have seen children who have had to fight for their rights to education, houses made out of hay, and many without shoes or clothing. It is not easy to see so many things, things that you want to help, but are unable to do much about. To help prevent all of these things from piling up and really stopping you from getting the most out of your trip, I recommend the following: communicate clearly with your roommate, make sure you are eating and staying hydrated, carve out alone time, keep a written journal, and remember why you are here.
- (03/19/2018) I have now seen “wild” or the following animals just waltzing around town without regards to people or vehicles: dogs, cats, goats, pigs, cows, horses, monkeys, camels, elephants, and peacocks. I also passed some snake charmers today; that was something I never thought I would see.
- (03/22/2018) When you are constantly on the move, it is easy to overlook just how truly awesome some of the things you are seeing are. Regardless of the length of your study abroad, remember, this is truly a once in a lifetime experience. When again will you be able to be where you are, meeting with the people you are, studying your topic? Take everything in for its worth and beauty!
After returning to the United States from this study abroad to India, I have had a few thoughts, that I would like to share…
- My flight was scheduled to return to Seattle at noon on a Sunday. I made sure to not have anything planned that day and managed to stay up late enough to go to bed around 7 p.m.; this proved very helpful in getting readjusted to the time difference.
- I work 2 jobs in addition to going to school. I stagnated all of my return dates, so I am not returning to the United States and then restarting the full swing of things the following day. I returned on a Sunday, started classes and one job on Tuesday, and will add in the second job on Monday. I seem to becoming adjusted easier and in a less stressful way than my peers who attempted to begin everything again on Monday.
- Returning to the U.S. is a big change for your body. Ensure you are assisting your immune systems needs and listening to your body. It is normal to be fatigued, to have different bowel movements than normal, for your skin to break out, for your scalp to peel, etc. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself!
- Returning to the U.S. is also an adjustment your mind needs to make. When I left Sea-Tac and turned onto 405, I found the highways to be much more…. quiet. I went home and was looking for bottled water to drink, as opposed to thinking about my tap water. It is normal for some things to strike you as odd or to readjust to the societal norms here.
- Be ready to talk about your experience! Your family and friends are going to want to know all about your trip and don’t forget, this is something you can add to your resume!
You get accepted into a Study Abroad program, you are so excited, you do not even know where to begin or who to tell first, and then it hits you…. What do I need to do now? There are so many things to buy, health questions to be answered, financial information to consider, etc.; it may seem super overwhelming, especially as you may still be juggling classes and/or a job onto of this. There are so many helpful resources and individuals in the Study Abroad office at UWB, along with materials available online and from your professors. I highly recommend getting everything started as soon as possible; there are many tasks you will need to complete. These tasks can pile up easily, especially as you’ll still have life happening, and some of these tasks, if not completed within a specific time frame, can prevent you from being able to partake in your trip.
Some key tasks/thoughts I have found in preparation….
- How are you going to pay for this? If you’re in a position where this is not really any issue for you, great! (maybe skip over this bullet) You want to ensure that you apply through the UWB Study Abroad office to their scholarship AND submit a revision request form for aid to the Financial Aid office. It would be wise, if you have a job, to notify them ASAP about the days you will need to miss. Also, examine what you are currently spending money on and attempt to cut out any frivolous spending to save the difference for your trip.
- Be aware of what logistical items you need to have completed beforehand. For this trip specifically, as they all vary, we needed 1) a valid passport 2) to apply and pay for an e-visa 3) to purchase university travel insurance 4) to have necessary vaccines… These tasks take time and money; look up the costs for yours specifically and the timeframe as soon as possible, then work on prioritizing the order in which to get these done. I also recommend making copies of your important documents (passport, visa, insurance) and keeping them on your person, in your bags, or on your phone.
- You may not be able to use your cell phone the entire trip; this is something you should be aware of being a real possibility for you and you making the proper arrangements beforehand. I recommend contacting your cell phone carrier, telling them your travel plans, and seeing if they can make accommodations. I found that my carrier and a few others offer international add-ons, but cannot guarantee that you will have service in the country (similar to how you may not have coverage in a rural area within the U.S. or while hiking remotely). I knew my parents and fiancee would worry if they did not hear from me throughout the trip, so I made sure that, before I left, that had the following: my flight itinerary to and from India, the phone numbers and addresses of the hotels we were staying at, my professors contact information, and the contact information for the University of Washington Study Abroad Emergency line. This will be especially helpful if you are in the situation where you cannot contact your family prior to your return to work out plans for being picked up at the airport.
- Be flexible on packing! Varying per program, there may be many packing restrictions. For example, with mine, we could only have one personal item (such as a purse or laptop bag) and one carry-on bag. You should seek clarification from the professor or professors on your trip as to if there are any packing restrictions. In addition, check with any airlines you will be flying with and country restrictions. For instance, some countries have restrictions on medications that can be brought into the country.
- In your free time, before the trip, it is wise to brush up on current events, culture customs, and other information that could be useful for a traveler in your selected destination(s). Don’t think you have time for this? Try conducting the research, looking at websites, etc. instead of mindlessly scrolling through social media pages.
March 27, 2018, Blog by Holli Nolan, Educational Studies, “Gender, Culture, and Human Rights in India,” Spring Break 2018
Namaste! Meera nam Holli hei; I am an Educational Studies major and am SO excited to have been selected for my first study abroad experience. In addition to having been selected for the trip, I have been selected to be a Study Abroad Ambassador; I am shocked, honored, and blessed! This study abroad will be taking place in India (Delhi, Jaipur, and Agra) with the focus of studying the intersectionality between Human Rights, Gender, and Culture.