I chose INDIA as my study abroad destination and I am in LOVE with the place

Why did I choose India as a study abroad destination?

 

with kids from Angel Xpress
Kailey and I with our mentees at Angel Xpress, an NGO that helps underprivileged children

Not once but twice now in the same year. At first, India was just one of the many countries that are on my bucket list, but as I traveled to India I gained a better understanding of a culture that is vastly different from my own.

The first time I visited was in May of 2018, and although I remember being exhausted when arriving, I could not help but smile while taking in all the new sights and sounds. Excitement and adrenaline pumped through my veins as we drove around the city of Delhi, weaving in and out of the chaotic traffic.

The two weeks that I spent traveling around Northern India with my professors and fellow students were packed full of new and exciting experiences. Through these experience, I was able to gain educational value while also finding myself along the way. It wasn’t anything like typical learning, this was all hands on and first-hand experience.

GII-Blog-Taj Mahal-Agra
At the iconic Taj Mahal on our study abroad trip with the GO India Intitiative in May 2018

Our coordinators from Think Education’s GO India Initiative went above and beyond to accommodate any and all of our needs. They also did a wonderful job at keeping us safe, I tribute their efforts as playing a part in making my first experience in India wonderful! By the end of my first trip, as

As I left India, I felt like I left a piece of my heart behind

When I received the opportunity to travel to India again through an internship that was offered by Think Education I was unable to say no. I jumped at the chance to experience this wonderful country again, but this time in a different part of the country. My internship was based out of Mumbai, which is a wonderful city located on the Western side of India.

think education team
Saying goodbye to the team at the Think Education office

This internship was totally different then my first experience in India, I was not going to be traveling around the country as much, in fact, most of my internship took place in Mumbai. Also, I was not apart of a large group of Americans so it allowed me to move more freely and stick out less.

The only extracurricular trip I took was to Jaisalmer, which is a desert city in Rajasthan. It was a beautiful experience, which included spending time in an ancient fort that has survived through the years and currently hosts a fourth of the city’s population.

Jaisalmer Fort
Spectacular view from the Jaisalmer Fort – one of the very few (perhaps the only) “living forts” in the world

Mumbai also has much to offer, the Elephanta Caves are only a boat ride away, there is a wonderful history museum, multiple art museums, historical walking tours, the Gateway of India, and so much more. I can tell you right now, you will want to visit them all!

The nightlife in Mumbai is unlike any other, clubs play mixes of electronic and Bollywood music, and India is the only country where you can experience this! Once at a club you find yourself tapping your foot or bobbing your head, and before you know it on your feet dancing the night away.  

Another great perk of traveling in India is how inexpensive it is. I am able to afford so much more than if I had chosen to travel to a European country. As many people know, most college students struggle financially, and I am no exception, so the cost has always played a large role when I’m planning any of my trips, whether they are educational or tourism focused.

gateway of india with Ishana Malkani
At the end of our walking tour – The Gateway of India

The affordability factor is the sugar added to my metaphorical cup of chai that only made my choice of interning in India easier. Although I hate to admit it, I am one of those people who enjoys planning almost everything in life, and my yearly budget is no exception, so India has allowed me to travel without breaking my bank.

While traveling here, you can not forget about the wonderful food India has to offer. Although when people think of Indian food they immediately think of curry, there is so much more to the food then just curry. There are different styles, I personally have experienced north Indian and south Indian food.

North Indian food has a lot of assorted bread, various types of curry, and my personal favorite dal. South Indian food includes white rice, utappam, ravva dosa, and my personal favorite the original dosas. The dosas are so delicious and the dipping sauces that accompany them make dosas truly something out of this world!

The Indian foods are unlike anything you’ve ever tasted unless you’ve been to an authentic Indian restaurant, which still cannot correctly portray all of the foods you can eat in India. Which leads me to chai. Words cannot describe how much I love the chai in India, and it can be found almost every place you go. Chai is found being sold on the streets, in small-town restaurants, and restaurants in the city.

It is truly Indian, and in my opinion, one cannot truly understand chai until coming to India and experiencing it yourself.

with Kailey Rubinas
In Jaisalmer with my friend Kailey who visited India with me twice in the same year!

Also Read: Cultural comparison between the USA and India, Kailey Rubinas

(btw though we both knew each other for a long time, but we become besties only during our first visit to India)

Chai is something that can drink any time of the day and provides the best feeling when you’re drinking it with friends and having a good time. The worst part of chai is leaving it, both times I traveled to India, I dreaded going home and having to readjust to the American version of chai.

Now I realize that not everyone is interested in religion and philosophy, but for those of you who are, you should just book a flight ticket now. India is by far the most spiritual country I have ever visited. In this country, you can find a Hindu temple, a Mosque, a Church, a Buddhist monastery and a Sikh temple all down the same road.

GII-Blog-Central Asian museum Leh
A panoramic view of India’s religious diversity

There are also other smaller religious groups that are worth learning about, Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest recorded religions in the world and also India has the largest population of Zoroastrians in the world! I personally connected with many of the Buddhist sites when I was in the Ladakh region.

The Hindu temples will make you go weak in the knees, their beauty and history are unlike any other, and experiencing the ritual of offering to one of Hinduism’s many Gods is a wonderful and indescribable feeling. I beg you to come to lose yourself in India, and find your spiritual side through the interactions with India’s various religious communities, which are almost always welcoming to those who hunger for religious knowledge!

ISCKON temple mumbai
Kailey and I at the stunning Babulnath Temple in Mumbai!

Also, if you are at all interested in Eastern or Indian style clothing, India provides tunics, harem pants, vests, scarfs, sarees, and so much more. Once you get the hang of bargaining with the sellers, you gain a sense of accomplishment when you haggle the price down!

Now if you are not into fashion, philosophy, or any of the cultural values that India has to offer, business is another reason to travel to India. India is an up and coming country, the economy is constantly moving in a positive direction, and new markets are constantly popping up.

Studying business in India is a great way to not only make meaningful connections with others, but also a great way to do some networking! Through my internship with Think Education, I was able to use my social skills to make connections that will be very useful for my future!

Don’t get me wrong, traveling in India isn’t always rainbows and butterflies, sometimes it can be challenging. There were times that I felt so mentally drained that I wanted to breakdown and cry, but I believe that those times tested me and I developed into a stronger person.

Through my travels in India, I learned that I am capable of handling anything that life throws at me. I was once told by a fellow traveler that it can be hard to adjust to new environments, and at times you will feel lost and uncomfortable, but it is necessary to persevere, which I totally agree with!

When you learn perseverance, obstacles that once seemed impossible to overcome will seem like mere speed bumps on the way to better things! India has taught me all of this and I will be forever grateful for my experiences!

– Erica Karsten, Michigan, the USA

karsteer@mail.gvsu.edu

 

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