By Graziana Antonacci from Italy, Hosted in Anand in 2017-18 

“Less than two weeks for my exchange year to be over. Can somebody explain me how we got from 300 days to 17? But actually, this journey began even earlier.

It begins in the moment when you reflect on your life and understand that you need a change. It begins in the moment when you realise that your own country, no matter its size, it’s just a dot in our globe and there is so much to learn about it. 

My journey started when my parents asked me if I was willing to have the same experience as my sister did in the USA as an AFSer during 2011-2012. I was surprised when I heard that.

They had been telling me that one year is too much; not because they didn’t believe in me but I guess because they were too scared to let their daughter go so far away for such a long time. Therefore, I had given up on that chance. When they came to me that afternoon in September 2016 they left me speechless. My biggest thanks goes to them for being so strong and faithful to let me be part of AFS experience. 

India has deeply changed me. I have basically chosen the country that is exactly the opposite of my personality. 

The Graziana who landed 10 months ago used to love the peace and quiet atmosphere of her small town in the hills, always wore black, hated the heat, refused categorically to wear jewelery and skirts. The Graziana who landed was always too afraid to dance, too shy to talk in public but, above all, too afraid to open up completely with others. What happened? India happened!

India in 10 months has taught me more than 15 years of education. I have rediscovered values  buried under the dust of cynicity accumulated during the years of my life.

When you are a kid everything is so smooth and easy; you simply love unconditionally. The real challenge is to maintain that throughout your life, when you get in contact with the corrupt and toxic side of the world. Before India, I was failing in that.

India with all its spirituality, with all its ancient wisdom, with both its chaos and peace has a way to take your soul and wipe it clean. The change is slow, discrete, constant and mysterious once you realise it’s happening. 

There are no words to describe India… Probably only horns!”