It’s hard to summarise my two months of adventure in words because they do no justice to the experience I had.
I’ve been searching hard for a word to describe my experience, my adventures and journey in India but I don’t think there’s a word to summarise my amazing journey.
There are a million reasons to why my Global Citizen experience is such an unforgettable one but here’s the top 9 ones:
1. Exploring the unique culture
Two months is definitely not enough to explore its long history of traditions and culture in India. Through the era of globalization and almost everything evolves at the speed of light, India still manages to hold on tight to their traditions and heritage. That is definitely something I’m very impressed about. Arranged marriages, traditional festivals (one that I went was ear piercing ceremony), caste system, the many languages and more. India is definitely one of the few countries which evolves along with the world rapidly, at the same time hold on strong to their roots.
2. The people
Some of the people I’ve met or seen may not have much. They do not own a 100-acre land, they do not own well-furnished brickhouse, they do not have extra rupees to spend on an extra meal but deep down inside, they own a very kind and sincere heart. That is all that matters sometimes. With what’s said, they never fail to insistently offer you food or drinks when you visit their home. When I ask for directions, the English words they know may only be a handful but they try their mighty best to help and make sure that I understand them.
When I ride a bus and it stops at my destination, they shout at me telling to get down with intention they don’t want me to miss my stop. When I do grocery shopping, I have friendly people who’d come and ask me what am I doing in India, how do I find India so far, and if I’m okay with their local food. Some thank me a lot as they learn that I was there for a voluntary program. In the village, I met the most generous and kindest kids there. They would offer me the last piece of candy they have in their hands and the only 20 rupees they have.
3. Experiencing cultures from different parts of the world within a country
One beauty of AIESEC Go Exchange Program is that I managed to learn not only the Indian culture but also cultures from different parts of the world. I’ve learned the Kizomba dance from Africa, tried Portugal food and learn to love their songs (they have amazing songs), improved my Chinese TREMENDOUSLY (the irony being in India haha) through communications with the China interns, and making friends from Czech Republic, Serbia, Russia, Slovakia, and Zimbabwe. So, I’d say I’ve travelled around the world in two months.
4. Give and take
This experience is something that I would actually be proud and happy to share when people ask me about what I did during my last two-month semester break. This journey has always been on my bucket list for a while and now, I can proudly strike it off! I’m glad that I did not spend my two months hanging out in malls, watching the latest blockbuster movies, having the best food in KL and spending more time than I already am on the social networks.
Instead, I have actually made impact to the children, the community and society out there in India. I did not magically transform the children’s lives there but I know I have done something right in that six weeks. I know the impact I did on them will reflect and show when they grow up some day. I taught them English with sincere hope and belief that only education can pull them out from their current living condition. I don’t know how much I did but I’ll always remember the promise the kids at the NGO did to me and the other interns. The children promised us that they will study hard, finish their year 12 and go to college just like us (the interns) someday.
5. A paradigm shift
Many times, I’ve been thrown bad remarks about India. I’ve been told many things that piqued my curiosity to find out for myself, proving to myself that what I’ve been told are true or otherwise. I’ve been proven wrong the moment I landed in India. I saw things for myself. Also, I saw how people on the other parts of the world live on daily basis, how children struggle and yearn to study whereas we take our studies for granted, the many things we as youths can do to help those in need, and the basicity’s that they don’t even have the chance to enjoy whereas we complain about them on a daily basis.
These images were filmed and kept in my mind. They changed the way I think and see things. One thing I know for sure, I did not come back to Malaysia being the same person who left two months ago. I learn that it’s all in the mind. As long you’re searching, you’ll see the beauty of things everywhere.
6. Sincere friendships formed across the oceans
Throughout the six weeks, I have made many sincere friendships, crossing borders of countless countries. Friends who would take the hassle to look for ingredients to make you steamboat despite the rarity of those ingredients in a foreign land, begging and pleasing like it’s the end of the world for you not to leave to the village because they want to spend more time with you, getting mad at you because you left the intern’s house to your project, always taking initiatives to keep in touch, always willing to offer help whenever in need, and cooking you dinners and suppers, making sure you are well fed.
Without these people, I highly doubt my internship will be the same. It’s amazing how people of different culture, family background, language and personalities can come together and be best buddies within six weeks. The beauty of this youth connection via AIESEC is that you’ll meet stranger who will not judge but treat you like family. I learn that you are willing enough to get to know someone, language barriers and different nationalities are just excuses.
7. Hopes of tomorrow
Having the chance to witness how these little leaders of tomorrow struggle to receive the best education gives me hope. It touched me when I saw how these kids are aware that only education will bring them a better life. Everyday in school, they study very hard and never miss a word that their teacher says. It made me ponder for a few days. I couldn’t fathom how some people have more than basic necessities to receive a proper education but complain whereas on another part of the world, these bright children struggle a lot just to learn.
Undeniably, it wasn’t easy being in a foreign country alone. Having to survive six weeks with many kinds of people, language barrier, culture difference, and home sickness definitely took a lot of courage to continue on and to resist the temptation to call a quit and fly home. The irony was that I chose this particular country for the challenges. I knew these challenges would make me grow and learn much more than a smooth sailing internship. And I’m glad I made the right choice!
The intangible growth within six weeks is purely amazing and I can’t help being ever thankful for it. I have cleared all the wrong perceptions towards India, now that I have seen it for myself. I brought back a lot of food for thoughts, enough to feed me for a few months now. I look at things in a wider perspective and more on a global scale because I see the impacts of every action we take, especially being a youth development organization. You either build or destroy them. A stronger social responsibility grew within me, I have come to realization that the world needs our help and it’s time to stop being selfish.
You never know how much impact you are making through little good actions.
My humble advice. Go all out, don’t be afraid. Don’t be held back by worries and fears.
This is a story from Rebecca Goh | Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Skudai | All the best!