A year ago today my suitcase was packed.
A year ago today my stomach was queasy with anticipation.
A year ago today I began a journey.
It seems so surreal that my adventure in India was just beginning last year and I find it fitting that this anniversary is so close to the new year. My trip began a year of new experiences, new emotions, and a new phase of my life. Now, on the verge of 2014, I feel nostalgia and pride at those experiences and anticipation at the year to come. It has been interesting to see how my experiences in India have affected my semester and my plans for the future.
My fall semester back at Nebraska Wesleyan University was more difficult than I expected. Even though I returned to the U.S in May, I actually felt more culture shock returning to school in August. Meeting other students and faculty on campus was overwhelming. I realized that there were very few people who wanted to hear about the meaningful aspects of my semester abroad, and even my closest friends could not understand the impact of these experiences and the emotions that came with them.
I found comfort in conversing with other study abroad returnees. We all shared similar travel experiences, culture shock emotions, and could understand the impact of our time abroad. These people kept me alive this semester, helping me to share my memories and evaluate the impact.
As I expected, I jumped into a million activities on campus, from sorority life to theatre management, in addition to working at a church and making grades.
Overall, returning to campus there was a concept of familiarity but yet newness in my heart. But I had the opportunity to share the India in my heart and opportunities to continue to experience India.
I immediately found the Indian grocery store in Lincoln, NE. The owner, Mahek, has become a good friend. I am impressed that I can purchase everything from paneer to henna, frozen breads, and even sweets! I have been cooking Indian food on occasion, mostly when I am at home with my family. I have mastered curries, roti, gulab jamun, and chai…but I have failed at bhatura and dosa (any tips??).
In light of receiving a Gilman International Scholarship, I followed through with a project to promote study abroad. My project reached out to our theatre department, which has one of the lowest study abroad rates on campus. First, I led a Kuchipudi dance workshop! I taught the attendees about the history of Kuchipudi dance and basic feet movement and hand gestures. Attendees loved the interactive experience of actually trying the movement, especially with the fast speeds. The workshop transitioned into a presentation in which I provided study abroad information and elaborated on my experienced in India. Indian snacks were provided of course 🙂
I was also able to lead mini dance workshops like the above to a few theatre classes as well!
In celebration of Diwali, I attended a celebration in town. There was a large gathering put on by the Indian Student Association at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The night was filled with classical and Bollywood dance–young and old dancers! Of course the buffet of food was wonderful and homemade. It was a night to remember…hope to experience it in India someday.
Bowl of Compassion continued to build the art room from the money we raised at First Presbyterian, and now they have a wonderful space for their kids to be creative!
I continue to keep in touch with my friends at Tagore as well as friends that are still in India. I definitely miss the heat in the cold winter of the midwest 🙂
As I enter a new semester, my last semester of college, I will continue to share my experiences. Looking towards graduation, I have realized that my study abroad experience has broken down barriers. I feel excitement at the fact that I can go anywhere in the world, I do not feel limited by insecurities or distance. Instead, I feel called to go out into the world! Whether it be volunteering overseas, leading children’s ministry in the midwest, or pursuing a culinary training on one of the coasts, I know the Lord will guide each step along the way.
Thank you to all of those who have prayed for me this year through travel and transition. Now I pray for discernment and direction. May the adventure continue…