If you told me at the beginning of college I’d study abroad not once, but twice, I probably would have assumed we were playing some weird version of poker and called your bluff. But alas, I don’t play poker and I am studying abroad twice.
How did it happen you may ask? If I’m being honest, I’ll go ahead and tell you: I had my Julia Roberts moment. You know, that moment in Eat Pray Love (the movie*) where Julia Roberts says she needs a change in her life and decides to travel to Italy, India, and Bali? Well I experienced that moment this past fall. After being abroad for the first time in my life, I definitively faced some resistance to the idea of moving back to the states (try having Heuston as your re-entry point after living in European bliss for five months). Now I’m well aware this sounds ridiculous as I was only gone for five months studying abroad in Lyon (because all my friends told me so after my twelfth time telling them my favorite stories from France…), but when you have that feeling of reverse culture-shock, you don’t sit still well being back. And it was that feeling which made me approach the study-abroad flyer wall once again last September.
So why France and now India? Great question. Even my family would have a hard time explaining this to you. All I can say is that UF in India chose me, I didn’t chose it. Well, I mean, I did chose it, but it was the way in which I saw the flyer, and asked the Study Abroad Advisor, and met the Faculty Advisor (Dr. Kumaran, who’s literally the best faculty I’ve had the pleasure to meet on campus) that the trip chose me. First of all, UF in India is the only study-abroad program that is focused on NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) & Development offered by UF. As an International Studies and Anthropology Double Major passionate about International Humanitarian Assistance and International Development, you can’t look this type of gift horse in the mouth. Then, there is the emphasis on the cultural aspects of India, which as a student predominantly interested in cultural anthropology, the same thing goes as before. And those two reasons were enough really to make me realize this was an integral piece of my undergraduate studies being presented on a silver platter, name card adorned on top and all.
Now don’t get me wrong, India also probably holds all my biggest fears as well. For an individual who loves cold-weather climates, isn’t drawn towards crowds, eats relatively plain foods, and sunburns walking to the bus stop, I will face my fair days of probable exhaustion. But isn’t that what life tells us we need to be doing EVERYDAY?! I don’t know why, but there was this one Lululemon shopping bag I had years ago that I still remember to this day; on it there were written dozens of motivational quotes. But the one that I’ve always remembered (cheers to you Lululemon Marketing Team) is the one which read “do one thing a day that scares you”. And this has become a sort of mantra for me, if you will, as I prepare for my study abroad. You never know what life is going to bring you. People may tell you that’s not where you want to go, or look at you quizzically when you tell them your future plans, but I personally believe it only means you’re on the right path. Because the right path for you is not and cannot be the right path for others too. Why do you think there are billions of people on this earth, and no two are the same (twins included.)? Thus yes, I recognize that my silver platter has some dents, and I may fear what is underneath the cover, but boy am I excited to open it and experience what I’ve not seen.
And now you have it. A taste of my summer to come. And my humor-which maybe you don’t find humorous but as I stand here at my kitchen counter I feel the likes of Sophie Kinsella will enjoy. Either way this is your glimpse to the stories to come of the 17 girls and Dr. Kumaran in India. Stay tuned early July for the first blog post finding its way to your laptop screen LIVE (not really) all the way from Chennai!
For more information, daily pictures, and general updates as we travel, follow Dr. Kumaran’s twitter account: UFinIndia