Guest post by Christine Ly, a Foster junior studying Marketing and Information Systems. Christine studied abroad in India under the Business India: “Half the Sky”- Women, Leadership, and Entrepreneurship, Early Fall Start program.
I just touched down in Singapore and the nerves hit. I couldn’t believe in three hours I would be in India. As my first international trip, I didn’t know what to expect. 27 days, 9 cities, 7 flights, and 10 hotels later I’ve only unraveled a small fraction that is the beautifully diverse India. From meeting with social entrepreneurs in Pondicherri, to sailing through Kerala’s lush Backwaters, to exploring tea plantations and the Himalayas in Assam, this experience was unforgettable.
Among the various states that we’ve visited throughout India, Gujarat gifted me with a lasting impression of what makes India so beautiful. In Gujarat, we stayed in the homes of residents in a rural village. Throughout the day we spoke with the women of the village learning about their entrepreneurial aspirations and the lives they lead as women in their culture. They took turns dressing us up in their traditional wedding gowns and teaching us about the background and significance of each gown. After they treated us to a delicious home cooked meal as some of the younger girls sang traditional Gujarati songs. Night time fell and it was pitch dark outside. For the first time in India, we could see the stars in the sky. You can hear the dogs howling and the crickets chirping in the background.
Reflecting on our visit to Gujarat, being able to interact with the locals one on one and learning their stories was very culturally enriching. There was something very intriguing about the simplicity of their everyday life that really resonated with me. Though I was exhausted from travelling, I was so mesmerized by the opportunity and the raw beauty of our different, yet seemingly ordinary, surroundings. Looking back, this feeling remained a constant throughout the entire trip with every new state, city, and entrepreneur we visited. I think my friend on the trip summarized this feeling best when she said, “It’s amazing to be rejuvenated in a way that you would never expect”.