Camille Batiste bid farewell to India
When I was told that I was going to India I was both ecstatic and nervous. Now that my exchange has come to an end, I am so glad that I decided to come to India. I have less than a week left in my exchange and it is one of the most bittersweet moments in my life. I have made incredible, funny, and amazing friends while I have been on exchange and I am eternally grateful for their friendship.
Before coming on exchange Mark encourages students to research their country. The research that you find online and in books can never really prepare a person for the actual experience of being fully immersed in a new culture and lifestyle for two months. When you are living in a country that requires you to constantly be outside of your comfort zone, you discover new things about yourself. Living in India, I have become more open minded, optimistic, and culturally aware by trying new foods, learning a new language, attending a new school, and by making new friends despite having a cultural and linguistic divide.
Since the last time I wrote I have visited the hills once again. My new host family and I went to a small tourist destination called Kasauli. While in Kasauli I got to try Indian street food, had many encounters with wild monkeys, and had the best Indian food at this small restaurant near the Kasauli Club (it’s like the country club of India). The best part about travelling to India is the food. While in Kasauli I had an Indian street food called Gulab Jamun, an Indian sweet dish. It was delicious!
Sooner than I expected, it was May 13th, my last day of school in India at Vivek High. It’s true time flies when you are having fun! I spent my school days attending the humanities section classes like English, history, political science, legal studies and psychology. The most interesting class I took was psychology. Every day the teacher, Nilama Ma’am, taught the class at least one aspect of Indianism. Ma’am taught us the cultural value and use of traditional items like bindi’s, anklets, and bangles. She even gave me one of her dupatta’s, a thin shawl usually worn with a traditional Indian suit that goes over the chest and shoulders.
Though saying goodbye to my friends and family was hard, I am incredibly excited to be returning home. I wouldn’t trade my experience during exchange for the world. The memories, friendships, and personal growth that I made on exchange are things that I wish all students could experience. To my family, at home and abroad, thank you for making this trip one of a lifetime.
See you soon, India!
Camille Batiste arrives in India
For the past four weeks I have been living in the lovely and drastically diverse country of India. When I arrived, I was greeted by my exchange, Ishana, and a huge poster of the Taj Mahal that said, “Welcome to India, Camille”.
Throughout my first week-and-a-half in India, many of the students were preparing to take their final board exams. At the beginning of your junior year, students have the option of choosing a stream which they will pursue for their remaining high school career to prepare them for life after high school. There are four streams offered in India: medical, non-med, commerce, and humanities. For example, if a student chose med, also known as sciences, they will be taking classes like Physics, Chemistry, and Biology for the next two years until they apply and are accepted into college.
Since the boards were very important, my exchange spent many days and long nights studying for her exams. Many of my first days were spent with my exchange’s family running errands, watching television, drinking cold coffee, or taking rest. My school, Vivek (pronounced Vih-vay-k ) High, requested that I travel to India early so that I could meet my exchange and her friends, explore the country, and participate in the school’s events that were being held prior to the first day of school.
In my first month I played Holi with my exchange and her friends. We spent the day throwing colorful dye, raw eggs, soft drinks, ketchup, canned foam, and lots and lots of water at each other to participate in this lovely celebration of love and color. The following week, my first exchange Ishana, departed for Athenian to begin her exchange and I went camping with the senior class of my school. Our campsite was in Shimla, a tourist and camping destination in the Himalayan Mountains. There we participated in the campground’s exiting adventure courses like zip-lining, valley crossing, rock rappelling, and rope-and-bridge crossing. Being in the hills, I have never seen the Indian sky so clear, the air so fresh and crisp, or the smell so clean and refreshing. My favorite part about the camping trip was that for the first time in over two weeks I was able to see the moon and find constellations amongst the stars. In India there are very high levels of air pollution mostly from vehicle exhaust, the overpopulation of people in certain cities, and the burning of trash because there is no definite disposal system. These circumstances make it hard to enjoy everyday pleasures that I have at home like watching the beautiful sunrises and sunsets or star gazing under the beautiful night sky.
Once I returned from Shimla, I connected with my second exchange, Rashi. She went on exchange to Germany a few months ago. In the week that I spent with Rashi and her family we took a road trip to Amritsar, 145 miles north of Chandigarh in the state of Punjab. In Amritsar we visited a Jain (pronounced Gen) temple. The Jain religion’s main principle is non-violence towards anything with a soul. This means they have a strict vegan diet which evem excludes certain root plants like onions and garlic. After my host family prayed and paid homage to their god, my host family drove to the Golden Temple. This temple is made completely of gold and houses Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the holy scripture of the Sikh religion. The temple is on an island surrounded by a pool of holy water in which some believers bathe to be cleansed from their sins. It was a very eye-opening experience.
This brings me to week four. This week I served as a delegate from the Athenian School in the Regional Round Square Conference 2016. Students from all over India convened at Vivek High to talk and brainstorm about mindfulness. Mindfulness is the act of being aware of your surroundings, your actions, and your well-being by honing one’s focus and applying it to your everyday life through meditation and measured breathing. I’ve spent the past five days reinforcing my knowledge of this practice with Buddhist monk, Lama Yeshe. I participated in group discussions with other delegates, ice breaker challenges, and even went camping in the Himalayan Mountains to practice mindfulness in nature.
School does not start until late April. Since I have been here I have already gotten to meet my classmates at Vivek by playing Holi, attending the camping trip, and participating as a delegate in the Round Square Conference. I am so incredibly glad that I have this opportunity to be in India and I cannot wait for the next month full of adventure!