For my STEP Project, I spent two weeks in Delhi, India with the Ohio State University International Affairs Scholars. Along the way, I learned about religion, family, education and overall, everyday life in India. I also worked on daily reflections and journal entries that allowed me to fully understand my experience.
My trip to India was my first time traveling outside North America and it allowed me to grow into a better student and member of the global community. Life in India is so different from life in America. Some of the wealthiest people in the world live there, as well as some of the poorest people. India is also one of the most populated countries in the world. During my time there, I saw slums and hunger everywhere I turned yet most of the people I met were joyful and polite. They were happy to teach us about our culture and welcomed us into their homes. Of course, this did not apply to everyone. Through these experiences, I learned that happiness is a choice. Though many families worked all day just to put food on their tables, they were still happy to be together and to show us how they live. My time in India taught me to be grateful for the things that I had and the opportunities I have been provided with. I also appreciate my education more now. Many children in India have to fight to go to school. School can be expensive and families must make it a priority in their homes.
During my time in India, I learned to be more understanding of others and their cultures. I have learned to keep an open mind and expect the unexpected. While there are many ideas in the west about what life in India is like, it is important to realize that these may be generalizations. The only way to truly understand India is to go and experience the culture and even then, one may still have things to learn. The trip showed me that while the idea of everyday life may seem simple, there are many things that influence life and culture.
Over the course of my trip, I visited locations for many of the major religions in the world. At each stop, people were very open to teaching and sharing about their beliefs. They allowed me to take part in their customs and made me feel welcome. I believe that this approach allowed me to better understand religion in India and showed me that religion does not need to divide us. Instead, the world should allow religion to make them stronger. After seeing people of all religions interact peacefully and happily, I know that it is possible. I also noticed that people on the streets were very welcoming and helpful. Numerous times, taxi drivers or shopkeepers would provide advice and even look out for the students well being. It showed me that mutual respect for each other can go a long way. One thing that was hard to experience was mothers and young children begin on the side of the roads. I wanted to help every person but I knew that it would not truly make a difference. This was a very hard idea for me to accept and I’m still not completely comfortable with it.
Education is very valued in India because it is the means to a better life, including more economic opportunities and job prospects. During my trip, I was able to talk to some parents about their families. I learned that education is a way to keep the children off the streets and to ensure they have a better life than their parents did. I also visited a school in a rural village and learned that the children love to learn and enjoy going to school. The village made the education of their children a priority and though there was work to be done on the farm, they all came together to ensure that the children could stay in school. It also helped that the village elder was educated and understood the value of educating the next generation. After seeing how hard these people worked to send their children to school, I learned how lucky I was to grow up in a place where education was provided for every child. I see now that much of my opportunities came just because I was lucky enough to be born in the United States. I will always remember this and be thankful.
Before this trip, I had never traveled outside of North America. My time in India opened my eyes to the infinite possibilities that other countries have to offer. I have learned so much about culture and life and I am looking forward to learning about other countries as well My time in India will be very helpful in the future as I would like to become more involved in global leadership and development. As a City and Regional Planning major, I am interested in how the developing world will grow and evolve. I would like to be involved in planning for a more sustainable future and India was a great place to go to see a developing country in the middle of becoming a global one. My trip taught me to be more understanding and open to others which will help if I travel to a different country to work after graduation.