OSU Student Reflects on Study Abroad Experience in India

December 4, 2018
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Ashley Clark is a Senior majoring in Comparative Studies and minoring in South Asia Studies. She spent the Spring 2018 semester studying abroad in Hyderabad, India and submitted this reflection on her experience to the NELC Department. Ashley encourages students that are interested in studying abroad in India to feel free to email her with questions (clark.2704@osu.edu)

Reflecting on My Experience in India

It has been about six months since I left India. India was the most stimulating country I have ever experienced: by smell, taste, touch, and color. I stayed with a host family in Hyderabad which comprised of my host mom, Lathaji, and the 16 year old twins, Ashley and Astra, who went by Sareen and Sunny at home. Their father lived and worked in Mumbai, whom I never met during my four months abroad. Lathaji would make a homemade dinner every night for me, which was absolutely delicious and truly spoiled. The food was honestly one of my favorite parts of my experience abroad. Lathaji taught me how to make indian chai, dosas which are a classic South Indian breakfast and my favorite dish, bhagara bhaigan, which is a roasted peanut curry with eggplant.

My host family lived in a two bedroom home with a tiny front yard that had a mango tree and a clothesline for laundry. The home was in a dusty neighborhood on a dirt road and sometimes herds of water buffalo would walk through the neighborhood. The home was next to a Christian prayer house, which woke me late at night on New Year’s Eve with the sound of loud music and singing in Telugu coming from next door, ringing in the New Year.

Hyderabad is situated in South India and I came to realize very quickly that much of what I knew or thought I knew about India really only represented the North. The language and cuisine is quite different in South India, so everything was new to me. I was amazed by how diverse Hyderabad was. It is home to almost 9 million people and is also geographically much larger than Columbus. The primary languages I encountered were Telugu, English, Hindi, and Urdu, but there are many more spoken in the city.

From my homestay I would take a rickshaw to school, which was a bright yellow car with only three wheels and no doors. The ride would take about 5 minutes and cost only 15 cents each way. The university was a gated school, so unlike OSU it had gated entrances that one would enter through and show one’s ID to enter the campus.

To get to my classes from the main gate, I biked a lot in the beginning, but when it got too hot I took the campus buses or even hitchhiked to wherever I needed to go. The campus was huge! It was thousands of acres and home to a lot of wildlife, but only a few thousand students attended the school. There were many times when I would pass by wild boars, water buffalo, or peacocks on my way to class. There was plenty of hiking on campus too, with huge rock formations and bright flowers blooming in trees. On my way home every evening, I would see many bats flying around the main gate to campus. If you looked hard enough in the daytime, you could see them hanging from the trees.

There were a little less than twenty students studying abroad at the university, and we were all from different schools in the United States, with one girl from Norway. We had the option of taking 4 classes from the university itself or from the Study in India program department, which were classes catered for the students studying abroad. My course-load included Hindi, Ayurveda, Folklife and Cultural Performance, and Region, Identity, and Violence in Contemporary South Asia. These were all graduate level classes so I learned a ton while taking these. The colleges were all open air and some had these beautiful courtyards with tropical flowering plants and trees growing from inside the premises. There were a lot of canteens scattered around campus where you could buy food, chai, or juice. Many students hang around the campus canteens and drink chai between classes. All of the canteens had fresh mango juice during the summer, which was so delicious and I still miss. My favorite mangoes were these small ones that you could crush in your hands and drink out of the top by pulling out the stem. My host family showed me how to do this and I could buy them from fruit stands in the city or grocery stores. There were also tons of little shacks on the side of the roads where you could buy coconuts and the vendor would use a machete to chop of the top for you to drink, when you were done you could have them cut it in half so you could eat the coconut meat. Typically this only costed about 50 cents!

During my time I was able to travel to quite a few places: Hampi, Munnar, Kochi, Bangalore, Delhi, Varanasi, Bodh Gaya, Agra, Rishikesh, Amritsar, Dharamsala, and Goa, which were all really fun to visit. There are still so many places in India that I never got to visit.