USAC Bangalore alumna Kaitlin Swindaman from University of Toledo wrote an article for Christ University‘s magazine, The Pulse. An excerpt follows below.
To India and Friends I Left Behind,
My living experience in a different social and cultural environment happened this past summer when I studied abroad in Bangalore, India. I had an amazing experience that taught me so much about myself and the world. This never would have been possible if I didn’t step out of my comfort zone.
One thing I learned about myself is how comfortable I am with change and how much I like it. At first I had to overcome the differences between cultures and fully open myself to these differences. I believe if you change yourself for the better then you are evolving as a human being. I had no prior traveling abroad experience, so I made this a test to myself of what I can do on my own. I had no phone and little internet connection during my stay in India and was perfectly fine without either. Forgetting about the technologies my generation seems lost in, I found myself constantly busy exploring India and studying for classes.
Without a doubt my favorite aspect of India was the people. The warmth I felt from people while I was there is something that is hard to describe. Through the friendships I made I was able to understand the culture more extensively. Without their friendships I would have felt like a tourist the entire time, only knowing the major landmarks I read about before I left the States. It was so important for me to engage in numerous conversations with different people, to better understand the day to day life in India. The more I understood, the more questions I could ask and the more respected people felt by me wanting to know about who they are as a person.
I have two pictures that stick out from my thousands of photos I took in India. The first is from a village I visited. I am at the center of a group of children, looking happier than I have ever been in a picture and maybe even in life. The children filled me up with joy that again is hard to explain but I will forever carry that joy will me. The second is me facing toward the Taj Majal, between two couples posed with their backs to it. This picture speaks to me because it is forever how I want to now see the world — facing what is in front of me, rather than turning my back.
Since I’ve been home I have spoken endlessly about my time in India to friends and family. One thing I have told them is I could go on forever about my experience but they just have to get out there and see it for themselves! I hope to come back one day. Thank you, India! I love you and your people!