Today, I will be returning to the United States after spending the last two and a half months in India. I don’t know how you all feel about the question, “So….how was your trip?”, but I hate it! How can I even possibly begin to explain what has just happened to me in the past two and a half months in India? Yet, the best description of an experience like studying abroad came from one of the students at my hostel during one of our tea time discussions: studying abroad is like a relationship. In the same way you can’t simply answer questions about the health of your marriage or relationship, you can’t describe the good and the bad of your study abroad experience in one simple response. It seems that this is the type of relationship I have with India.
Stage 1: My first date with India. I arrived in India on May 16, 2012. Like most first dates, the first day was a little awkward. I watched a man pee on the side of the road, walked around the streets feeling very aware of my whiteness, almost got hit by a few rickshaws, and ate food that I did not recognize and was too afraid to ask what it was.
Stage 2: Getting comfortable. It wasn’t until I arrived in Mumbai, after spending a week in Delhi, that I began to feel like this relationship between India and I could really work. I stayed with my friend’s sister and visited an old friend from Eastern who I had not seen in two years and didn’t think I would ever see again. I even wore a saree and was fed lots of delicious food (this time I was comfortable enough to ask what it was).
Stage 3: Is it love that I’m feeling? After Mumbai, I spent two weeks at the Asha House, a children’s home near Delhi. Here, I fell in love with 29 beautiful children who accepted me immediately upon my arrival. They tried (and failed) to teach me Hindi. But, they taught me cricket and seven stones, while I taught them how to do the Hokey Pokey.
Stage 4: Could India be the one? After my stay at the Asha House, I ventured down to Hyderabad, the location of my study abroad program. In Hyderabad, several Indian families welcomed me into their homes, and it was here, in Hyderabad, where I attended my first Indian wedding, mastered the art using Indian public transportation, and made friendships that will last a lifetime. I feel less like “a foreigner” and more like a part of a community.
Like most relationships, not everything has been perfect, including the times I have been ripped off by rickshaw drivers and shopkeepers, when the power goes out every five minutes for just enough time to disconnect my computer from the internet, and the internal struggle I face every time I see someone throw their garbage on the side of the road. But, I guess this is just how it is with relationships: you accept the other for the good and the bad. Although I have been in India just two and a half short months, I think I might just be in love.