As one of the returning students from the short-term study abroad trip to India, I have found it difficult to succinctly describe such an intense experience; the sheer immensity of India’s cultural similarities and differences to the United States makes it hard to consolidate my thoughts on the trip into a mere article.

I endured a sometimes arduous journey to be accepted into the study abroad program, writing essay after essay, and—like a good little English major—checked, double-checked and neurotically triple-checked it to make sure it sounded perfect. A couple of months of applications and letters of recommendation later, I finally received that feeling of (nearly) instant gratification when I received the email saying “Congratulations! You have officially been accepted into the Kings College summer study abroad program!”

That may be a little paraphrased.

And so… India. A few shopping trips, packing, repacking, and travel-themed gifts later I was on my way with a group of exceptionally awesome peers and saint-like professors who led our innocent, doe-eyed minds through a country we had zero prior experience with. Any trepidation I may have had was entirely in vain, though. When we arrived in India, we were greeted with open arms and hospitable families, completely eager to show us the customs of their beautiful country. We obtained an insight we would never have been able to get by reading books and looking at pictures, connecting them with themes of globalization and how quickly India is integrating into the world.

We met some wonderful students and professors from the local Holy Cross College at Agartala, who warmly welcomed us to their establishment and taught us the glorious talents of haggling at a market and properly draping one’s sari. I won’t lie; I shed a few tears when we left. I feel that, despite the world of difference between Indians and Americans, there was still something so innately common and familiar with these people. I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world.

That is not to say everything was lassis and bangle bracelets. More than battling spiders of unusual size (who conveniently liked to eat the mosquitoes of unusual size), heat that bordered on 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and rolling blackouts that cut power to the ceiling fan that we hailed as devoutly as the locals loved their cows—we students found ourselves deeply humbled. Poverty is still a rampant problem in India, at a level we can’t really appreciate in America. Finding oneself walking down the street, accosted by beggars and unable to help them for fear of being overwhelmed by the sheer multitude of disenfranchised people in the vicinity —well, humbling is not really the right word, but it’s the closest I can find.

All in all, to anyone who is thinking about, has an inkling for, or is even slightly considering studying abroad, but just isn’t sure if they can make it work, my advice to you is: quit worrying about it! Just do it! I know it’s hard to leave your family and friends, to go to a country that may or may not have running water in the places you expect it to, but it is an experience that will completely reshape your life for the better. I’m already seeing if I can travel abroad again before I graduate.

For more information about the study abroad programs, both short and long-term, please contact Mollie Farmer (molliefarmer@kings.edu) or Kim Fabbri (kimberlyfabbri@kings.edu) of the Study Abroad Office.