The Final Push in Varanasi
This blog post was written by BRIC participants Lauren Mariano and Tatiana Traulsen…
As BRIC 2017 is coming to a close, our last formally planned week was spent in Varanasi, India. Given that we are studying World Religions for the duration of India, choosing to visit one of the most ancient and holy places in the world was extremely educationally relevant. Acclimating to India as a whole these past few weeks, one cannot ignore how deeply embedded religion is to society. It affects everything from politics to economic activity. This fact was especially noticeable in Varanasi, as there was no shortage of rituals.
Comparative to Delhi, Varanasi has a different energy. Cows roam the streets and people were constantly going to the Ganges river. In Hinduism, the river is considered sacred and has the power to cleanse one of sins. Overall, the entirety of Varanasi involved learning about the environment and what it means to the people living there.
Being in a completely new environment and exposed to a different side of India, the strength of the cohort was tested. While in Varanasi, pollution levels in Delhi reached a historical high of 969. The World Health Organization considers anything above 25 AQI to be unsafe. The effects trickled into Varanasi, reaching a level of 648.
Pictured below is the group clad in masks and scarves in protection against hazardous air conditions.
As the week went on, the number of affected students increased. As immune systems weakened, it was incredible to see how everyone remained still strong. Members of the cohort stayed engaged. Some students brought back food for the students not feeling well, and our professor and advisors were understanding.
This feeling of unity and connection carried on into Wednesday night. On a small café rooftop terrace, BRIC students Lauren and TJ played the guitar, Leonard played the drums, and everyone else sang along. We can’t begin to describe how beautiful it felt to see how close we’ve all become since the first day of pre-departure when we introduced ourselves. There is no doubt that this cohort, along with our professors, was the best support system one could ask for on this challenging program. We have learned that although we are all different from one another, we were brought together by our same curiosity, passion for travel, and willingness to learn about everything and everyone in our surroundings.