Studying abroad in India: Highs and lows

Emily Coons

Staff Writer

When I heard about the study abroad requirement during freshmen orientation, I may or may not have gotten a little too excited. Within the first few weeks of school, I had already started planning out my future travels, and attempting to figure out which program I was going to apply to. However, instead of planning out one study abroad trip, I planned out three. Throughout the course of my time at Goucher, I have studied abroad in India, Indonesia and Germany. While I have been lucky enough to see a good part of Europe and eastern Asia, my time in India still stands out as one of the more unique experiences that I have had. India was a beautiful mixture of some of the best and worst moments of my life. For my spring semester of my sophomore year, I was accepted into SIT’s Environmental Sustainability and Social Change program that was based out of Jaipur. Over the course of five months, I had the chance to explore countless temples and bazaars, partake in numerous festivals, visit multiple cities, get stranded at the Taj Mahal, discover my strong hatred of monkeys and even embarrass myself in a Bollywood dance class. One interesting component of my study abroad program was that students were expected to complete an independent study project. In April, I moved to the tiny hippie town of Rishikesh, where I lived next to the Ganga River with several travelers from Israel and Australia. Throughout that month, I observed the impacts of foreign volunteers on rural Himalayan communities and whether or not this impact was beneficial or damaging. This research opportunity was special, seeing as though it provided me with an opportunity that was far different from the typical study abroad experience. Apart from the research, Rishikesh was absolutely memorable. Being able to wake every morning to the sun rising over the Himalayas while eating fresh mangos is a memory that is hard to forget. While in Rishikesh, I also took an intensive ashtanga yoga course, learned how to spin fire poi, discovered that I hate ginger and went on multiple hiking treks in the Himalayas. While my time in Rishikesh was entirely too short, I am hoping one day to eventually return and continue my hiking treks. Despite there being several happy memories, there were many negative ones. There were moments that challenged me on multiple physical and emotional levels that I didn’t think were possible. At one point, I became simultaneously ill with e-coli and dysentery, which seriously compromised my health. Nothing could have prepared me for the frustration, pain and confusion that came with the territory of dealing with a medical emergency in a rural public Indian hospital. Additionally, I was put into several uncomfortable situations which not only made me question my role as an American in a developing country, but also made me incredibly grateful to be a woman in America. Despite this, I am still thankful for these experiences, seeing as though they shattered my previous Goucher-bubblesque outlook on the world. My time in India was not perfect, but it was an experience I learned a lot from. One thing I wish I had known before going abroad was that it is perfectly okay to not enjoy your study abroad experience. I felt as though I had to live up to an expectation that my program in India was going to be spectacular. When it didn’t meet this standard, I originally felt embarrassed and told everyone that it was incredible so that I could blend in with everyone else coming back from abroad. However, having completed two programs since then, I have fully embraced the fact that each experience abroad is going to be different and that no one should ever have to feel like their study abroad experience should have to be perfect. Every time abroad is a unique experience in itself and is going to be different for each person. Learn as much as you can from both the good and the bad times, and keeping planning out the next adventure.


Categories: Abroad


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