I just turned twenty-one, and I’ve spent my entire life living in the same country, in the same state, on the same street, in the exact same house. I have traveled throughout the United States, but I have never been immersed in a completely different style of living. So, this year, I decided to apply for a study abroad program in India. As an undergraduate student, I have studied cultural anthropology, sociology, religion, and the history of global civilizations. Throughout my studies, my attention has always been drawn to India. I absolutely love the richness of Indian culture. I have read the Ramayana, studied Hinduism, written papers about the caste system, and admired Indian jewelry and fashion. However, no number of books or classes can ever truly equate to the experience of living in India. Study abroad provides the unique opportunity to experience your studies. To live in your classroom. What’s more, study abroad courses allow you to learn about a foreign country from a non-American perspective. All my professors at my Indian university will be Indian, and so I'll be learning about topics and issues in Indian culture from an Indian point-of-view. Of course, despite the amazing opportunities, studying in a country like India is not without its challenges. Conveniences that I am accustomed to, such as air conditioning, clothes dryers, and safe drinking water, are not always available. Typhoid, malaria, Japanese encephalitis, cholera, and rabies are prevalent diseases in India. Furthermore, gender roles, religious traditions, and social norms are very different from what I have experienced in the United States. Some people have directly asked me, “Why did you choose India? Can’t you go to Europe instead?” Europe is awesome, and I would absolutely love to visit someday. And, admittedly, it would be easier to study in a more developed area of the world. However, I decided that a trip to India would maximize the educational opportunities of a study abroad program. The Eastern world is very different from the West. By choosing a country from Eastern culture, I will be able to learn about a completely different way of living, thinking, and viewing the world. As a Westerner with red hair and pale skin, I will definitely stand out as a distinct racial and cultural minority. The social, cultural, and psychological experience of living in a completely different world convinced me I had to go to India to broaden my understanding of what it means to be human.
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