Kem cho? Kaise ho? It’s been about a month and a half since I’ve been in India, and honestly I’ve been enjoying it almost every single day. Every day is different and I rarely get bored. I admit when I first arrived I was quite overwhelmed by everything, and when I arrived in my home I was having a bit of self-doubt because I was out of my comfort zone. But presently, I feel so fortunate to be able to go on exchange and to experience such an amazing culture and country.
I don’t want to talk too much about the plane trip and such, but I think it’s important that you know so you’ll know what to do when the time comes (this is to future exchangers because just the trip itself was overwhelming and tiring for me). Of course it may be different depending on where you’re flying into, but I’m just telling you my experience. So first I left from my hometown to Atlanta, then to Amsterdam, then to Mumbai, and then to Baroda (Vadodara) and it took about over 30 hours to get there if you’re curious to know. When I was checking in my luggage in my hometown, the desk lady told me that I won’t have to pick up my bag at Mumbai, but you will (if you are arriving in Mumbai). Luckily when I was on the plane to Mumbai, a university student who was sitting next to me helped me through the process and also a Rotarian offered to come and help me, but I insisted that I would be ok since I would be arriving in the middle of t he night, and I didn’t want to disturb his night’s sleep. Anyways, once you get off the plane in Mumbai, you go to the area of domestic flights and you have to go through the visa processing. Then you pick up your luggage and they will have to go through security check. Afterwards keep going in the direction of the domestic flights, and you and your bag will go through security again. Then you will take a bus to the domestic flights building and show the bus driver your ticket so he can tell you which stop to get off at. Now this part is a bit confusing, but for where I was I had to pass the boarding area/security and go to check in, but do not be afraid to ask where it is, anyone is willing to help you. Once you have it checked in go to security and wait until it is time to board the plane and soon you will arrive in your destination. Many people helped me so I am thankful for their kindness.
There are animals on the street, and you’ll see all different kinds. There are: cows, stray dogs, monkeys, and many more. It's quite interesting because most of them aren't bothered by you or any of the moving vehicles. There are these monkeys that come around my house every other day and our dogs will bark at them because they get so scared..haha it's so cute! When I see cows on the street I'm so tempted to pet them, but I know I should leave the cows alone because they are considered holy and they're actually quite scary if you make it angry. It's difficult seeing all the stray dogs here especially ones that are injured or are starving..you will see all the stray animals eating garbage...
You will see beggars here and in any age. I dislike how they will pull on your heartstrings. Sometimes you will see people who are disabled, young children, elderly, and women carrying babies. I know that it's best to give them food instead of money especially the children; I try to give them something where they have to eat it at that moment like ice cream.
There is a lot of garbage and trash on the sides of the roads, but I think the main reason for that is the lack of a good garbage disposal system. There are no public garbage cans and the people who don't live in proper homes have no place to throw it away so they just throw it wherever they want.
Sometimes the smells are strange here. Sometimes the air smells nice, other times not so much.. When you're on a bike these smells are very apparent.
You don’t know how much I love my host family; I feel so welcomed and I’ve already become a part of their family. They usually involve me with whatever they’re doing, and we “siesta” naps together. They keep me occupied.
As expected school in India is very different, but I actually like it except for the heat ;P Depending on what your school offers there are three choices: Commerce, Science, and Arts (but not all schools provide Arts). I am taking Arts, but it’s mostly majoring in psychology which is great because it gives an outlook on Indian society and culture, and it’s different from American psychology. You know in America we can choose our classes and friends in different classes, but here you only stay in one classroom. Although I like it, when I’m with my schoolmates because we create a close bond, and I spend a lot of time with them. I really enjoy my schoolmates; they are so caring and always watch out for me. They encourage and help me learn the language which is a great motivator. Other exchange students complain that their schoolmates aren’t so mature, but I am fortunate that my schoolmates are quite understanding and mature about things (or at least most things ha-ha). My school is quite small, but it supports pre-primary and up and I enjoy seeing the little kids every day. I go to school on a cycle (bicycle) every morning and afternoon. It was a bit scary at first because driving in India is crazy, but now it doesn’t bother me so much. We have school uniforms so I’m still waiting for mine to come, but I’m hoping it comes soon because it’s soo cute!!
So if you didn’t know in India we speak Hindi and where I live we also speak the local language Gujarati. I’m trying to learn both, but it’s a bit difficult learning two different languages so right now Hindi is my main goal because almost everyone in India can speak Hindi. Also English is an official speaking language here so many of my schoolmates can speak it, but they speak in British English (but with an Indian accent).
Oh gosh I cannot tell you how different the food is here. There is so much spice and flavor that it takes only a little amount of food to fill me up. With my family we usually have some type of Dal and curd (it’s like yogurt without any extra flavoring, but my family gives me strawberry crush because I don’t like it alone) and of course other types of Gujarati food. Other exchange students say that their families make them eat a lot, but mine are quite understand since they’ve had other exchange students in the past so I don’t feel sick as often. The names of food are very different too so I have trouble remembering names sometimes. They have western food here too, but it tastes different from home. There is more spice added to the western food if they make it, and you’ll find many popular American chain restaurants/fast foods. There is: MacDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Dominos, Papa Johns, and even KFC. And yes they do have non-veg foods here, and not everyone is Veg. My family is vegetarian and I normally remain vegetarian unless I’m really craving some chicken or shrimp then I go out to eat because I feel it would be inconsiderate for me to have meat in the house.
I love indian clothes, they’re so bold and colourful. Navratri just ended and I got to wear a Chaniya Choli :); Although Sarees are still my favorite. Kurtas are commonly worn, and also western clothes are common among the young in my city. I would advise not to wear shorts or anything that’s too revealing because they dress more conservatively.
I still have so much to do while I’m here, and I’m saying yes to everything even if it’s something I’m not good at. I wish I could write everything that I see here, but it would be too much to say. I will update you soon! Ta ta!