Reflections from India
This blog post was written by BRIC Participant Ola Szymanska ’19…
BRIC is an amazing program that I wanted to be part of since high school and the experience ended up being more than I could have ever dreamed of. In studying abroad, I wanted to be challenged and learn outside of my comfort zone. I chose BRIC because I didn’t know when I’d have the ability to visit complex countries like these undergoing such rapid development. I’m often asked which of the three (Russia, India & China) were my favorite and the answer is India. Coming into India, my goal was to keep an open mind and be present. I wanted to focus on just observing without immediately analyzing situations that I didn’t know the full context of. However despite my intentions, I soon became very overwhelmed. I found myself constantly thinking about issues like the young children I saw begging on the streets and not knowing how I could help. Additionally, I was struggling to engage with and understand a culture I had no prior knowledge of. Everything was new to me and I just couldn’t get out of my head. A day in Old Delhi embracing the unknown and exploring with my cohort changed that.
Within the first week of touching down in India’s capital city, we were paired up with students from a local college who would show us around Old Delhi. The day started off with taking the metro which was a crazy experience. In the blink of an eye, we were shoved into the train amongst hundreds of people. When we stepped out, it was a completely different world than Connaught Place, the commercial business center of New Delhi. Thick strands of power lines weaved down the streets of Old Delhi hanging from buildings like untamed vines. It’s almost as if though they were tying together this bustling part of the city and sectioning it off as it’s own world. In the first ten minutes of scampering through crowded streets, sidestepping barbers and merchants peddling their goods on the pathways, going around animals of all kinds and narrowly missing attack by rickshaw, I thought I was going to pass out. As time went on, I became more comfortable, accepted there are things we are not meant to have control of and decided to see where the day would take me. Our friend Soumya, who studies literature at the Hansraj College, took us to a hole-in-the-wall place with the best butter chicken and told us all about her daily life and interests. Then, we walked around to visit different vendors and ended up at a saree emporium which was a very cool experience. Soumya and I took off our shoes, walked in and sat down on a white mattress-like floor. Along with the other women in the shop, we were being presented dozens of fabrics in all the colors of the rainbow. The tailor took measurements and my friend helped me bargain. The custom made kurta is beautiful but it’s not the material things that matter and that transformed this day for me. It’s all the experiences I had in India like this day where I met so many wonderful, kind people who were willing to teach the BRIC cohort about their culture. From the local students to the CET staff that facilitated many of our site visits to the Babson alumni we met, each person was able to provide us with a new perspective to consider, giving us a more well-rounded view of India’s political, economic and social spheres.
In class, we discussed how diverse and complex India is. There is no one single story but rather many Indias, each version different and vibrant. Studying abroad is about growth and understanding, about challenging yourself in productive ways that will change and better you professionally, academically and personally. I learned so much through BRIC that will continue to impact me and hope to go back to India one day and explore other regions of the country. For more of a look into Old Delhi, check out Christopher Lally’s (’20, BRIC X) video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCc4oAd_dn8&t=646s