I’ve been home for about two weeks now and have finally had some downtime which I’ve reflected on the last month. Over the course of the trip, I found that there was so much going on that I was never able to find much time to really think things through and evaluate how I was doing and how the trip was going overall. Having a more laid-back day-to-day schedule has definitely been an adjustment, one that I haven’t quite gotten used to, but it has allowed me to think about things in a way I wasn’t ever able to on the trip. In this final blog post, I’m going to try to examine and summarize my experience and answer a couple of questions about the trip.
Describe the growth you see in yourself personally, academically, and professionally.
Of the three, I definitely grew the most personally. There are so many different places where I feel like I grew personally so I’ll just touch on a few. To start with a I feel like being pushed out of your comfort zone to the extent we were throughout the trip, specifically the trek, really shows how you relate to and interact with other people during stressful times. You realize just how important teamwork and listening to others are through experiences like this, where you have to look at the needs of the group as being more important than your individual needs.
The trek I felt really taught me about my own headspace and what I can do to improve it and make sure that I was always in a good spot. Being away for ten days without any connection to the outside world left me to deal with my thoughts by myself without talking my problems through with anyone from the outside world. We did have a great group of people along, and a number of them I had some really great conversations with, especially by the end of the trek. I found that some of my favorite, most rewarding, and probably most important time spent on the trek was spent by myself just thinking things through. Taking that downtime was so important for me just to be able to regain energy and also really consider how I was doing every day. Also, I found how rewarding just talking to individual people was during the trek. Whether it was talking about how everything was going, or just about life in general I found that I got a lot out of these conversations.
As for the academic aspect, it was school but in a completely different setting than I was used to. The teaching methods used were much more hands-on based and focused on real-world examples using scenarios to practice. I felt like this approach was much more effective and engaging than the traditional approach that I’ve grown accustomed to.
Professionally there is so much that I can take away especially as far as leadership goes. Leadership is such a universally applicable skill that will forever be useful wherever I decide to go in life. I got a great insight into leadership development, especially in scenarios that push you out of your comfort zone.
· Identify skills and knowledge gained on the program and how you plan to integrate these skills/knowledge into your academic and professional endeavors.
So the obvious skill here that I learned is leadership. The month was spent highlighting leadership, so it really was always on my mind. From the various theories to thinking about the leadership dynamics within our group, it was something that I naturally was forced to think a lot about, but also chose to really consider it during my free time.
Another really valuable skill that was super important during this trip was teamwork. Learning how to be a team player was a natural part of the entire trip but especially the trek. The importance of teamwork was not understated by anyone at the Hanafil Center either, its importance was frequently touched upon.
Both of these skills are valuable life skills that I will use in all aspects of my life, from interacting with friends and family to my professional career.
· How did the cultural and personal expectations you anticipated prior to the international component play out in the real world? What expectations were met? Which were not?
I intentionally went into the trip with few expectations. I knew no one, I didn’t know much about India and had no real idea what the trip would entail. I figured having no expectations would leave me not feeling disappointed no matter what happened. My only personal expectation was that I would make some friends and grow as a person, both of which happened. I had hoped to maybe come away with some insight as to what direction I wanted to go with my life but had no real expectations that this was going to happen. Unsurprisingly this hope was not fulfilled, in fact, I left India feeling more confused and unsure but that’s probably not a bad thing.
As for cultural expectations, I didn’t really have any either. What I will say is that what I saw definitely stuck with me. The poverty that is clear to see across the county definitely stuck with me and has given me a greater appreciation for how lucky I am. Some of the cultural differences also really surprised me and stuck with me. Every Indian I talked to, especially in the villages we went through on the trek, was so welcoming and kind. The culture of sharing and interacting with one another in a far less individualistic society was really interesting to see, and something I wish our culture could take something from.
Thats it! The last blog post I’m going to write. Overall the experience was really amazing, definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I’ve taken a lot away from. I’m super happy I got the opportunity to go on the trip and hope to do another study abroad trip and other unique experiences like this one in the future!