My summer spent in Jaipur, India was simultaneously everything and nothing like I expected it to be. Before traveling to India I had studied the country for 2 years in an academic setting. I felt I had been prepared for the trip, and somewhat knew what to expect… I have never been more wrong in my life. The most popular question I get asked now about my trip is, “What did you learn from your time there?” I always answer it with the following.
Firstly – I learned to never self-diagnose on web MD. 90% of the time you have cancer and 10% it’s a rare tropical disease.
Secondly, I learned about my strengths and weaknesses in an entirely new way. I am fortunate to have the opportunity often in The United States to self-reflect and participate in leadership workshops that target these, but there is something that has hindered my growth. I am constantly surrounded by similarly minded people in these sessions and in all of my leadership opportunities. We are all individuals but we are fueled by the same things and therefore it’s hard to see your own individual strengths and weaknesses. In India I was surrounded by people from all over the US with different perspectives and life experiences (not to mention the people who live here in India with much different perspectives/life experiences). This trip has taught me that I’m not good at asking for help – I get that from my father (love you, Dad). I can’t stand not being able to do something on my own and when I was completely lost in our classes my first instinct was to take the entire burden on myself and not seek the help I needed. My biggest strength is my ability to tie groups together. I pick up on people’s emotions very well (maybe to a fault) and am able to position myself in a group to best allow for it to thrive. It’s not that I’m overwhelmingly nice or warm, I just can feel out what people need and position myself to be that person for them. I really like this about myself, and I think it fits perfectly into my career path of being a counselor/student mentor.
I still have a lot of unpacking to do – both physically and mentally. There are a lot of things I saw here that I can’t understand – most notably poverty and gender discrimination. These are extremely complex issues that really touch my heart. It’s not good enough to feel uneasy about it but what can I do? Why did I get chosen to have such a comfortable life? These are questions anyone in a position of privilege who witnesses poverty asks themselves. I am challenging myself to think more critically about these situations and what can realistically be done.
Overall, the trip was incredible. I experienced a new culture in ways only living in a country allows you to, and I learned a lot more about myself than I ever expected.