In January 2020, I, and other students from Miami University, traveled to India for around two weeks. We were on a partnership trip with Christ University in Bangalore and were there to not only discover the culture, but also to brainstorm ways to fix various problems in India with Christ students.
This was not just Americans once again thinking we knew everything, as our days included a discussion among students and talks from various professionals in Bangalore.
Because it was my first time out of the country (besides a cruise to Mexico, where I was only in Mexico for a few hours and didn't need a passport), I knew that this trip would change my life, but I had no idea how much.
1. I realized how big the world is.
And how small I am in comparison. Finally leaving my bubble in the US made me really appreciate the size of our world. I thought a lot about how we in the US tend to forget about the rest of the world.
2 I learned that stereotypes happen everywhere.
Just as we have stereotypes of Indians, they have stereotypes of us. It was actually really fun to compare stereotypes.
3. I found out people from other countries tended to assume I was rich.
And, in comparison, I might be. While I'm certainly lower-class in the US, money from the US goes a long way in India. I only spent around $300 on four-course meals, trinkets, and snacks, throughout the two weeks I was there. (Granted, a lot of dinners were paid for by our hosts and/ or teachers.)
4. America plays up many of the problems other countries face.
While the problems I had heard about were certainly problems, actually seeing them and talking to people made me think about them in a different way.
I learned a lot about white-savior complexes and now really cringe when people share pictures of children without shoes from other countries and fawn about how sad and hungry they must be.
On the contrary, many people that we talked to in villages who lived in situations as we see on Facebook so often felt bad for us and saw us as out-of-touch.
5. America ignores many of the the issues other countries face.
During our discussions with Christ University students, my classmates and I were constantly told about how mental health is almost wholly ignored in older generations. Additionally, they discussed how, despite what their government claims, the caste system is still very prominent.
6. Americans tend to be really inconsiderate.
At least compared to Indians. The students were constantly taking time out of their day and using their money on us. Even when we tried to get them to stop, they wouldn't. It's just the Indian hospitality. We were certain they would not be treated the same in the US.
On the contrary, they would likely get disapproving looks, especially in our college town.
7. I found out just how similar we all are.
My classmates and I connected with the Christ students on a level deeper than "we're working on a partnership together". We had embarrassing conversations, fun experiences, and found some really amazing friends. It really solidified my view of people.
In all situations, we truly are more alike than not.
Sadly COVID-19 disrupted our friends in India from getting to come to visit us, but I will forever be thankful for those few weeks we spent with them. My short trip to India truly changed me for the better.