William Harren

William is an Ambassador who studied abroad in India
Major: Philosophy
Minor: Writing and Mathematics

Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?

Wanted an adventure. Wanted an immersive cultural experience. Everything fit with my schedule.

Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.

I could list numerous, but seeing as I just got back, I can only seem to summon my most recent experiences, so this was during post travel: My girlfriend Malia and I got lost while out on a run near the Ellora caves east of Mumbai. We had gotten a decent ways away from the road and as the morning dwindled, the temperature was moving quickly up through the 90s. Seeing and older farmer out in a field, Malia stopped to ask directions. Instead of giving us directions, the man took us to his hut. Despite not speaking any English, he brought us water, tea, and food-- picking up Mangos which had fallen from a nearby tree. As we sat eating, he brought out the rest of his family, who appeared to be his wife, his wife's sister, along with his mother. They all sat on the ground around us, watching us and trying to communicate with hand signals. When we had finished eating he wanted to show us his home, their small two room cottage with almost no furniture. He turned on the small tv at the center of the room and invited me to sit down. His wife and mother played with Malia's blond hair. We were absolutely at a loss. Politely we explained to the man that we needed to catch a bus, which was true. With an understanding old man Indian head nod, he stepped out leaving us with the rest of his family. Returning shortly with a plain white overcoat, and walking stick he filled my small backpack with mango. The old man walked us until he found a dirt road, pointed us toward the caves then waved farewell.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

Awesome, fascinating, eye-opening.

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?

As my first time leaving North America, this experience in India was incredible for all of the reasons one would generally expect. But beyond that, I feel like study abroad has made me more responsible and mature. Seriously, I wear a watch now. In a way never expected, I was able to connect with the Saint John's/Saint Bens community through the diverse group of people who I quickly grew close with. Having to watch out for my fellow students, and standing with them through their own shock and trial, I learned what it's like to be in a community under stress. On a personal level, i learned what it takes to maintain academic and professional form while disoriented, overwhelmed, and homesick and often times literally sick. Part of the reason I am writing this application right now is because my experiences abroad have given me a far greater appreciation for our school community and left me more motivated than ever to take part in that community.

What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?

If you can afford it, definitely do it. If you do it, keep an open mind, a relaxed attitude and remember to watch out for your fellow Johnnies and Bennies. Don't do India if you want a vacation.