By Alia Adler, from Atlanta, Georgia, Hosted in Indore, Madhya Pradesh (Shishukunj)
“When I got accepted into the NSLI-Y program, I was beyond thrilled. It was my second year applying, and I could not believe I had gotten accepted. I couldn’t wait to live in a foreign country, go to a different school, and experience a culture that was relatively unknown to me. However, once the date approached, I started really thinking about why I wanted to go to India in the first place. I was learning how to speak Hindi, something I had always wanted to do, but I realized there was more to it than that. My mother’s family is from Calcutta, and going and living in her country of origin would help me understand a little more about her. She herself immigrated to the USA when she was 4, so she grew up immersed in American culture. Nonetheless, she still had a direct tie to her roots: her parents. I had no such thing. Of course, I would see my grandparents fairly often, but I was by no means steeped in the culture like she was. I realized I knew very little about where I was from, and hoped that this experience could be a good first step.
(Photo Above: With her host family)
When I actually got to India, I was overwhelmed at first. Everything was new, and different, and just navigating life was an adventure. I didn’t get time to sit down and think about what it all meant to me. However, I found myself saying more often than not “My grandmother does this”, or “My family does something similar”. I never noticed until I was talking to my American parents about my experience. I was telling them about the hospitality here. I had noticed that everyone here wanted me to be as comfortable as possible, going to intense lengths, despite my insistence. In this case, my family had spent a good amount of time making sure the lighting was just right for this FaceTime call, despite the fact that it wasn’t that bad to begin with. I thought it was sweet, and it really did remind me of my grandmother, who wanted to make sure that we were happy and comfortable no matter what. As I was telling them this story and the many others, I realized that so much of the quirks I found in my grandmother’s personality were actually common ways of life here in India that didn’t necessarily translate in America. Knowing this, and realizing this has helped my connect to my past, and been the greatest impact that AFS and NSLI-Y have had on me.”