Malia is an Ambassador who studied abroad in India
Minor: ROTC, Public Health
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
As sociology major, I am fascinated by labels and the more unique and foreign a situation presents, the more likely one feels obligated to stereotype it. Well, this study abroad is about as foreign as I can get. I love to travel and didn't want just another city for pretty backgrounds in my photos. I wanted adventure and the challenge of completely sticking out as a foreigner and India certainly didn't let me down.
Unique to my situation was that I studied abroad as a sophomore. Being a part of ROTC, I was not able to go abroad my Junior year as most students do, and applying to go abroad at the end of my first year was quite intimidating. However, not only was the Spring of my sophomore year the perfect time abroad for my military education, I loved knowing I would be coming back to CSB/SJU with two full years ahead of me.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
This is probably the most perplexing question to answer and when I answer it over and over again back at home, I am able to use a different story each time. Looking back through my blog posts this experience on my first day of college in India really stuck out to me:
Take USA’s Silver Sneaker Club (elderly gym workout groups) and mash it with laugher and yoga and you will get what I just experienced. The past two days I have ran by a sign advertising the “Laughing Club” proven for instant fitness and happiness results open to anyone everyday at 6:15, so it wasn’t even a question as to if I would be joining it but if I could coerce my friends into coming along. The early wake up scared most away but I talked three into coming and this morning was actually able to force only Brianna out of bed and out to the park. We had to ask about four people to point us in the right direction and two of the directors were from private yoga groups we were invited to also join but we finally wandered into the space set aside for the laughing club. About 10 elderly women sat in a circle wondering how on earth two American girls found their hang out, but they happily questioned us and were pleased to have us join. It wasn’t until about 6:40 that we actually began and the group grew to about 40 people. The instructor informed us we would first stretch from head to toe and then release our giggles in a flowing yoga like manner. We pulled at our ears, shot energy out our fingers and brought our hands from the floor to the sky with varying degrees of laughter. The fact that the entire class was in Bengali made no difference as our new club members were more than happy to correct our every movement. Laughter club was most definitely a success and while I don’t think I’ll be instantly getting the six pack abs benefits promised there was no better way to start my first day of school!
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
India cannot be summed up in one sentence, one paragraph, or even an entire book. Trust me, I am fully aware of this because our Study Abroad course’s focus was on defining the India identity. Despite countless journal entries, essays and interviews, each and every member of our group struggled to pinpoint this beautiful jigsaw puzzle of a country. While incredibly cheesy and extremely overused (trust me you will be sick of hearing this), the advice to “expect the unexpected” and “believe in the coexistence of contradictions” is frustratingly accurate. I was never taken aback by this “hit-you-in-the-face” culture shock I looked forward to, but instead was surprised everyday by the abnormalities of Indian life. From day one, India was everything I wanted it to be and then some.
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?
It not just anyone would sign up for 5 months studying abroad in India; it takes an adventuresome individual who desires to explore the unfamiliar and uncomfortable, so other words its probably someone a little insane. Now put 13 of these wackos together and throw them in Calcutta and you have my study abroad group. My group never ceased to make me smile as their reactions and perceptions to our experiences were so unique yet aligned with those of my own. I completely underestimated how strongly I would come to love and rely upon my little CSB/SJU community while abroad. Therefore, on top of the typical benefits of expanding your boundaries, challenging your sense of resiliency, and developing cross cultural communication skills, spending a semester abroad in India allows you to truly appreciate what you have waiting back for you at home.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
Personal-- India forced me to look past my typically rudimental daily stressors to understand that valuing people, places, and customs around you with an open mind is far more important than checking off items on my ever-present to-do lists.
Academic— As sophomore recently signing on to join ROTC and then changing my major from Nursing to Sociology, I needed some time away from the standard collegiate setting to step back and analyze my choices. Studying abroad provided me that opportunity and now not only am I confident about my decisions, I am reenergized to return to campus and fully experience my last two years as a Bennie.
Professional-- I am full of aspirations to live in countless locations abroad and India is now the first of many in my professional career. Studying abroad in the second most populous country, largest democracy, and origin of multiple worldwide religions will set me apart from other students and cadets by instilling in me the cultural skills needed to excel in global operations.