I Experienced Culture Shock In India

I Experienced Culture Shock In India

The culture shock I experienced while abroad came entirely complimentary.

Traveling is humbling, inspiring, and exciting. Whether you take a fourteen-hour flight to an exotic destination or simply road trip to another state, traveling is something that everyone should experience. One of the many benefits that come with traveling is learning how other societies and cultures differ from the one you are used to. Broadening your view on the world makes the planet seem a lot smaller when you realize that every person has their own chapter in history and every place has a story.

In December of 2017, I traveled to India. Although I booked a flight and a hotel room, the culture shock I experienced while abroad came entirely complimentary.

Culture shock, by definition, is “the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture.” As soon as I stepped off the plane, a wave of panic unexplainably fell over me. My breathing became narrow and sharp and my vision blurry. I began stumbling over my words in rapid succession, trying so desperately to communicate to my mom that I was about to faint. I had no idea why.

I could feel my heart beating aggressively in every part of my being as my mind raced to understand what was happening to me. Was I having a heart attack? Is this what a seizure is like? Am I going to be okay? These irrational and terrifying thoughts were the ones that ran through my mind as I sat there, face flushing and pulse pounding. I couldn’t understand it at the time, but there was nothing wrong with my body. My mind, however, had just suffered an anxiety attack.

This anxiety would, unfortunately, continue until around half-way through the trip. Upon arrival at our hotel, the trunk of our car had to be searched. After exiting the car, we were divided by gender and had to walk through a metal detector, then get frisked head to toe. This was a reoccurring practice that took place almost everywhere we went.

Our arrival time at the hotel was roughly around 4:00 a.m. However, jet lag paired with anxiety is a wonderful thing, and I can’t say I slept that night.

The next day, we drove to the city of Agra to visit the Taj Mahal. This was our first full day out and about. It was a three hour drive in the middle of nowhere. In India, drivers don’t exactly follow the rules of the road. The best phrase I could use to describe what it’s like to drive in India would be “controlled chaos.” Every half second, someone blares a horn or swerves across five unmarked lanes all at once.

There’s an ungodly amount of cars on the road, so you can bet the traffic is incomparable. Sitting in a car as the driver swerves through endless rickshaws, motorcyclists loaded up with four people, and stray animals is quite the stomach churner. However, to my disbelief, I didn’t witness any accidents (nor did anyone hit one of the million cows frantically clomping into the streets).

I am a blonde girl with green eyes and white skin. Why is this information important? Because not only did I stick out like a sore thumb, but everybody—and I mean everybody—stared at me. Picture yourself at Disneyland on a crowded day walking down Main Street, except every person that you pass intensely stares at you. Some people even ask to take your photo or reach out to touch you. That’s more or less what it was like.

One thing I noticed throughout my time in India was that there weren’t many women out and about in the streets. When I arrived at Agra, I stepped out of the car and a crowd of about twenty men began surrounding me and speaking to me, which made me very nervous. I couldn't understand it at the time, but the staring comes from a place of pure curiosity and interest, as blonde women are not very common to see in India.

Once we were in line for security at the Taj Mahal, the woman who was frisking me said, “you’re so white!” I had absolutely no idea how to respond, so I nervously replied, “I live in Oregon and we don’t get a lot of sun.” I’m unsure what happened with our language barrier, but this response made the woman seem very skeptical of me and she asked me to “repeat my statement,” then placed me into advanced security.

I will be honest and say that I was uncomfortable while in India. I truly experienced culture shock first-hand. Getting sick from everything I ate, stared at everywhere I went, and patted down upon entry into my hotel certainly were experiences out of my comfort zone. But that’s good. I shouldn't expect everything to be perfect and up to my Western standards of society when I travel.

India is a fascinating smorgasbord of sights, sounds, and smells. I believe that traveling throughout India for a week helped me appreciate the fact that every place lives differently. Not in a bad way, but simply different than what I’m used to. Culture shock is scary and confusing; but acknowledging that you feel uncomfortable is simply the first step to overcoming your fears and in turn, discovering everything this beautiful world has to offer.

Cover Image Credit: Hannah Neill

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Meet The College Student Who Took A Solo Road Trip Across The United States

With only a cooler, a bag of electronics, and a bag of clothes, Alex Kim embarked on the trip of a lifetime.


Not many college students can say that they've taken a road trip across the United States. Even fewer can say that they've gone on that journey alone.

However, Alex Kim can say that within one month, he drove from the east coast to the west coast of the United States by himself. And he made sure to hit all the major attractions on the way.

You name it — the White House, Cloud Gate, the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, and Yosemite — Kim has been to all those places.

Kim is currently a senior at the University of North Carolina, majoring in religious studies with a minor in human rights. He plans to attend law school in the fall of 2019. So, he knew that if he wanted to take a trip across the states, the summer of 2018 would be the perfect time.

Courtesy of Alex Kim

I had the opportunity to meet Kim when he briefly stopped by Lawrence, Kansas, near the final stretch of his journey. When he told me about his trip, I was baffled, intrigued, and impressed all at once.

To take a long road trip with friends is one thing, but to take a month-long road trip by himself is an entirely different story.

Kim said he simply wanted to meet people. He had the opportunity to meet other brothers in his fraternity, Pi Alpha Phi, and made quite a few friends (myself included!) on the way. He also visited family friends and people that he knew through Greek life.

Besides meeting people, this trip also consisted mostly of driving an 6-8 hours per day, listening to educational podcasts, and traveling to national parks, monuments, and memorials. He even bought along a burner and pot to cook ramen noodles in the national parks. Kim called these meals his "ramen adventures."

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Kim said this trip was extremely of out of his comfort zone, but it helped that he went alone because he was able to set his own schedules, plan his own routes, and do everything at his own discretion.

When asked about why he decided to go alone, Kim said "Going with someone else means that I will spend way more money than I should… If I went with another person, I also have to cater sleeping accommodations as well."

There were many times where Kim simply slept in his car because he didn't know anyone in the area, or he didn't want to pay for a hotel or Airbnb. But he didn't have to sleep in his car the whole trip. Half the time, he had friends or family members who were willing to house him for a night or so.

In addition, going alone gave Kim a lot of time to reflect on his past and what's to come in his future.

"I can't tell you how many times I thought of what my next chapter of life will be," Kim said.

However, going alone also presented its fair share of obstacles. Some difficulties included bad weather, over exhaustion, too much caffeine, and lack of sleep and nutritious food. One of the biggest problems that he faced was loneliness.

Kim admitted that there were periods of time where he felt extremely lonely. When he knew that he wasn't going to see people for a while, he would call his parents in the morning to tell them where he had been and that he was doing well.

There was one instance where he was first traveling to a national park, Yellowstone Park, and he internally freaked out. For the most part, Kim heard nothing but complete radio silence because there was no reception. Kim said that he felt scared because he wasn't in control of his loneliness.

Aside from those challenges, Kim was glad to say that the road trip went well, and he didn't have any car trouble.

For him, some notable locations were New York City and Los Angeles. Kim didn't really go to L.A. for sightseeing, but rather to pay his respects to an old mentor who passed away. Even though he explored much of nature and national parks, he said that the most breathtaking view was not in fact at a national park, but at a family friend's farm in Harlington, Nebraska.

Courtesy of Alex Kim

"I never thought I would say this, but I really enjoyed the countryside in Nebraska. Being away from the city lights, it was very peaceful and quiet. The sunset was breathtaking," he said.

Overall, Kim approximated that he traveled across the United States for a grand total of 9,700 miles, and despite some challenges, he really enjoyed this trip. He met new and old people and witnessed stunning views that he wouldn't have seen back in North Carolina. As a lone traveler, Kim practiced humility and now sees the world with a fresh perspective.

Kim also learned many lessons along the way and here are six that he shared:

1. Learn to rely on yourself.

2. Sometimes it's good to play it by ear. You'll have the freedom to do so much more.

3. If you can't play it by ear, always have a contingency plan.

4. The people who constantly kept up with you throughout your whole trip are you true friends.

5. Get out of your comfort zone; learn to be versatile.

6. Take time to yourself to reflect on your past, make amends if possible, and plan out your future.

After his trip, Kim returned to North Carolina, taking with him all the experience and lessons he gained from his travels. Nowadays, he keeps busy by studying for the LSAT in September and working towards getting into law school.

But would Kim take this extraordinary road trip again if he could? Most definitely.

See more pictures from his trip below.

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Courtesy of Alex Kim

All photos here are provided courtesy of Alex Kim.

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Without A Trace: Malaysian Flight MH370

Is it possible to solve one of the biggest aviation mysteries of our time?


On March 8th, 2014 the scheduled flight departing from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing never arrived. Officials know the plane made a left turn after their last contact with the aircraft, but what happened after remains unknown. Somehow, a 209-foot plane holding 239 people vanished. Help came from all over the world to scour the ocean for any signs of what could have happened. Four years later, the families hoping for answers have none.

It was recently made public that the Malaysian government released a final safety report for the missing flight MH370. Having always been perplexed by this disappearance and not satisfied with the information found from news outlets, I decided to read through the report myself to try and get a better understanding. The nearly 500-page report was easily accessed on the Malaysian Ministry of Transport website.

Noted at the beginning of the report are the limitations faced by the significant lack of evidence. That sentence alone had me raising my brow. As I read on, there were several blank sections like Fire, Survivability, Other Damages, and many more simply stated "Not applicable" or "No information". For being a government official document regarding missing persons, this report was very discouraging. Even with all the research and simulations conducted, the question remains unanswered. What happened to MH370?

The initial search for the aircraft lasted for 1,046 days until the suspended in agreement of China, Malaysia, and Australian governments. In January of 2018, the American company Ocean Infinity came into a 90-day agreement with Malaysian officials to do an underwater search in the area most likely to have the wreckage. That search came to an end in May. There are 27 items found that have been linked to the missing aircraft. Of those 27, only three are official, confirmed wreckage from MH370. Two of the items were found in the Southern Indian Ocean, and the third was found near Tanzania. These findings are a small glimmer of hope, in this unsettling mystery. As broken down through the report, here is a summary of events leading up to the disappearance.

At 4:40 p.m. the flight was cleared for takeoff

At 4:43 p.m. the flight made communication to confirm ETA to the first waypoint for 5:22 p.m.

At 5:19:26 p.m. MH370 is instructed to radio into the waypoint

At 5:19:30 p.m. MH370 radios back "Goodnight Malaysian three seven zero."

At 5:20:31 p.m. MH370 passes through the waypoint

At 5:21:13 p.m. The radar loses position on MH370

At 5:39 p.m. The whereabouts of MH370 come into question

6:01 p.m. Before losing signal of the aircraft completely, they detected the aircraft at 4,800 ft

6:03 p.m. The Aircraft disappears from the radar

6:15 Signal of aircraft reappears going faster and at 29,500 ft

6:22 The signal disappears, for good.

The military data shows significant changes in the speed and altitude of the plane after the chilling last message. This information only raises more questions in my mind. The possibilities of what happened to this flight are endless. What bothers me is that each and every person on that flight is still missing. No clothing, no shoes, no signs of life have ever been discovered from the flight.

If it crashed into the ocean, how is this possible? If it's not possible, then where did the plane go? Was it aliens? Did the entire plane get kidnapped? Was it swallowed up into a hole in the sky? Did it sink to the deepest depths of the ocean? For the sake of the families who lost someone, I hope we can one day have an answer.

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