By Rachel Marie Dinh from Tempe, Arizona, Hosted in Indore, Madhya Pradesh (Shishukunj)

“As I’m sitting on my host family’s terrace on a breezy Sunday morning hearing peacock shrills in the background, I’m wondering a few things. First of all, did I forget to take my malaria pill again? And second of all, how am I going to leave India, the country that I’ve called home for the last six weeks?


(Photo Above:  Rakshabandhan)

Saying this experience was amazing is not enough. Of course in a new country, you adjust to a different way of life. Here, I saw how Indians skillfully navigate through the chaos that is called traffic. I tried the vegetarian lifestyle and came to enjoy daal, subzi, and roti. I looked forward to watching Bollywood movies with my family every day. I even got used to using “Bedays”, which is definitely a cultural experience. More than seeing different things though, you can become a different person in another country.

I’m normally a shy person, but here it’s kind of impossible. Every day at school, I interacted with Indian kids who were curious about American culture and my reason for coming to India. At home, I would be telling my mom about my day in broken Hindi sentences. I used to be hesitant in speaking Hindi because kids would always giggle and give pointed looks to each other. You quickly learn not to be sensitive to forward-sounding remarks because it’s only by realizing your flaws and that you can improve.

It’s especially worth it when people’s faces light up because I spoke their native language. Something I admire about India is how there are countless religions and Gods, but somehow, these different beliefs coexist in a nonjudgmental environment. For example, at Shishukunj, the morning prayers are from different religions every day.

Riding the bus to school gives a glimpse of rural life in India. There are  kids who are old enough to go to school but stay home to help their parents. In taking a field trip to a small village school, I met dedicated students who told me they loved to learn. I’ve  dreaded getting out of bed to go to school on many mornings, while some just hope for that chance.

If you’re asking about a cultural impact, yes, I definitely had one. It’s easier for me to get out of my comfort zone and to understand others’ beliefs, even if they’re not my own. Here’s to the last week of authentic chai, unplanned adventures, and unforgettable memories!”