One of the many perks of studying at Augustana is the diverse range of opportunities beyond the classroom. Community Service Learning and Experiential Education are two of my favourite ways to unite knowledge gleaned from textbooks and lectures with the real world. Most recently, I went on an incredible travel course to India! Thirteen students and one brave professor (Dr. Manaloor) cut our Christmas Holidays short as we began this unforgettable journey around India examining the unique features of India’s economy and religions.

We landed in the city of Mumbai, a hub for tech companies which serves as the financial capital of India. For readers who have not been to India before, it might be hard to fully appreciate the chaotic beauty that I first encountered which is known commonly as culture shock. Jet-legged, I emerged from the bus entering an endless sea of Indians. A cacophony of honking vehicles filled the thick, humid air. People stared obviously at the group of Augustana students almost as much as we stared back at them. Moments later, a young lady approached me and asked, “selfie, ma’am? Pic please?” We posed. A line of people formed as others wished to take selfies with our group until we were surrounded tightly on all sides. I felt like a celebrity. The people in India are welcoming to say the least.

We spent twenty-three days travelling to many cities and villages mainly in the Southern part of India. Three flights, one train ride, a public transit excursion, and many hours on busses later, we had seen a glimpse of India. We got to meet faculty and fellow students at various universities, women’s colleges, and prestigious institutes. We got to experience being on a Bollywood set, tour a Bajaj Auto factory, appreciate the Mamallapuram stone carvings, see Munnar’s vast tea gardens, go houseboating on the Alleppey Backwaters, and visit the Taj Mahal just to name a few highlights. We had the opportunity to meet with tribal people living in rural areas which offered yet another perspective. As a developing country, India faces many challenges including the disparity between rich and poor, pollution, and their growing population.

Travelling to India as a university course has brought an academic focus to an already incredibly outstanding trip. I feel honoured to have spent three and a half weeks becoming friends with the other students on this trip; we share a bond that goes across disciplines, years of study, and international boarders. I have been inspired to pursue more sustainability initiatives because if McDonalds in India can refuse to supply plastic straws, lids, or utensils, I can do my privileged part to preserve our natural environment. Every time I travel near or far, I notice and appreciate more about the places I call home.

(Originally published February 5, 2020)

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