Erik is an Ambassador who studied abroad in India
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I chose to study abroad because I wanted to experience a new culture. I wanted to explore different parts of the world and jump into a whole new lifestyle. I chose India because India offered the most cultural emersion out of all the other programs. I have always been fascinated with India and with its mysticism and intrigue. I knew this trip would be challenging because India is still largely a third world country. However, the opportunity to interact with Hindus, Muslims Buddhists was what made me choose India.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
One of the most significant cultural experiences I had on the program is noticing how people can live and be pleasant with so little to their name. India is a land of dichotomies, a place where polar opposites co-exist. For example, in one section of Kolkata you will notice skyscrapers, nice buildings, fancy eateries, etc. However, not too far away are the slums. There are millions (yes, literally millions) of people who live in absolute poverty in India and they certainly have it rough. Many do not have houses and try to survive on 50 cents a day. However, what makes this so special is that many of these homeless beggars will manage to give you a smile when you walk past them on the street, regardless of whether you give them money or not. So, from now on I try to remember how good we have it in the United States and that no matter how bad our situation may be, that there are millions of people around the world who have it a thousand times worse. If they can manage to smile and be somewhat happy during their dark times, then so can we.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
My study abroad experience was one of the most important experiences of my life because it taught me many useful moral lessons that I will remember for years to come. India in a nutshell was a serious eyeopener that I feel everyone needs to experience at some point in their life. There are so many great things to do in India, ranging from traveling to the different states, to floating down a boat in the Sunderbans Mangrove Forest, to trying figure the busing system, to interacting with the locals and going to Hindu temples. The activities in India are endless, it's just up to you to go out and discover them. Finally, I will say that there is never a dull moment on the India trip. You are constantly doing things and there is simply so much hustle and bustle around you that it is hard to catch your breath. However, this is a good thing because your study abroad experience does not last forever and you want to come out of study abroad saying that you did the most you could.
Based on your experiences abroad, what are some of the benefits of spending a semester abroad? How has studying abroad contributed to your personal, academic, and professional development?
There are many benefits of studying abroad. You get to experience a new culture (living with host parents, eating ethnic food, learning the language etc), challenge yourself in ways you might otherwise not (like figuring out the busing system) and learn many valuable lessons that you just wouldn't be exposed to in the USA. Studying abroad has contributed to my personal goals because it allowed me to live in and appreciate an entirely different culture while at the same time challenging how I act and think. Study abroad also helped advance my academic goals because I learned a lot of cool academic subjects that are not offered here. Professionally, study abroad has allowed me to interact with businesses overseas and volunteer for NGOs. All in all, study abroad can only increase your chances of future success.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
Ask yourself what you are looking for in your study abroad experience. Once you determine that, then seriously look at what each study abroad program offers. From there, you should be able to narrow down your search.
Make sure to make the most of every opportunity presented to you while abroad. Don't stay indoors to much. Socialize. Meet new people. Travel. Challenge yourself. Be kind and sincere to everyone, especially to those in need. HAVE FUN AND ENJOY
Do you have questions about studying abroad in India? Email Erik at firstname.lastname@example.org.