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How I learned to stop worrying and go to India

Published: Thursday, November 29, 2012

Updated: Thursday, November 29, 2012 15:11

You don’t know how good you’ve got it until you’re halfway around the world.

This was one lesson I learned when I had the opportunity last July to fly nearly 9,000 miles and 16 hours – not counting layovers -- from Memphis, Tenn., to India, the largest democracy in the world.

For two weeks, I traveled what is known as the “Golden Triangle” of New Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, the countries’ southern tech capitol of Bangalore, and the mountainous community of Kodaikanal.

 For two weeks I saw the best examples of ancient history and the worst examples of poverty.

I experienced cultures and environments I wouldn’t have otherwise if I had stayed home rather than go through a months long process in order to take part in a trip that has left a lasting mark not just on my time in college, but on my life as a whole.

I didn’t up and decide one day to go to India, which would be my first time to leave the country.  The process took months of planning, saving money and applying for the necessary documents: passport, travel visa and a $1,000 travel voucher from ASU’s Study Abroad office that reimburses the cost of your plane tickets.

This wasn’t a vacation for me; this was an educational experience or a really long field trip that happened to cost a few thousand dollars.

It basically costs a semester’s tuition and then some to spend two weeks in a foreign country.

But it was worth every cent.

With the guidance and expertise of Carl Lindquist, ASU’s coordinator of study abroad and special recruitment projects, and Veena Kulkarni, a professor in ASU’s sociology department and a native of India, I was able to receive insight into a drastically different culture from mine.

Counting them, there were only five of us on the trip, so it felt less like a field trip and more like an extended family outing.

In the weeks leading up to our trip, Carl told those of us who would be going that if we could survive two weeks in India, we could make it any country.

There were definitely some rough patches along the way: Not being able to eat meat for 14 days aside from chicken nuggets from McDonalds; navigating your way through streets of people trying to sell anything they can in order to make a living, and barely fighting off a stomach illness while watching a professional belly dancer at an outdoor restaurant in the “Pink City” of Jaipur.

The main reason I made the effort and commitment to go to India was timing. While I intend to enter the journalism field, I have no idea if the path my life or career will take me on will ever allow me to have that kind of opportunity again.

I bet some of you reading this have entertained the thought of visiting some foreign land to study abroad for one semester.

I encourage you to do more than just entertain that thought and make a visit to the Study Abroad office in the Administration Building. Our time in college is more than just about attending classes and making the grade.

It’s about taking a few bold chances in the hopes of having a few less regrets once we’re knee deep in the “real world.”

My time in India might have just been two weeks, but it was two weeks that exposed to me to beautiful views, new ways of thinking and people that will stay with me for a long time.

Daniel McFadin is a senior journalism major of Springdale.

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