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Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Academics

    8

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Cultural Immersion

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Health and Safety

    N/A

  • Social Life

    N/A

A global citizens's experience

I had the opportunity of a lifetime to live, study, and work with international students from all over the world in Bangalore, India. The program, WE BUILD 2011, was sponsored by the Indian non-profit Global Citizens for Sustainable Development (GCSD) and centered around this idea of what it means to be a global citizen. What made it a truly unique experience was that after studying Indian culture, development issues and global social justice movements, we were able to contribute to sustainable development in India by partaking in a 10 day building project in rural Bangalore. Living and working with students from China, Russia, Ireland, Kuwait, and Scotland, I had the opportunity to understand what life is like for 20-year olds across the globe and explore the common issues and concerns we share as a youth. What’s more, to hear a family be so grateful simply to not have to sleep in the rain anymore truly put our work in perspective on the gifts we take for granted every day.

Beyond our service learning project, we saw multiple aspects of Indian life and culture as we traveled around the southern portion of the country. Visiting various Hindu temples and colonial palaces, the Indian past came to life as we saw the relics of Muslim conquests, Hindu dynasties, and British colonial rulers. In the first few days, we set out to explore the city of Bangalore via GCSD’s very own Amazing Race, a version of the television game show where we split up into teams and raced across the city to find clues leading us to our final destination. Although my team didn’t win (I still say everyone else cheated!) it was a great opportunity to work together in developing not only teamwork but moreover open communication in a multi-cultural setting, a skill that, working in international relations, I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

From riding an elephant to participating in the building a house to teaching a group of international students the American ‘traditional dance’ of the Cha-Cha Slide, my time in India with GCSD offered the opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone and work and live in a completely new environment, which was certainly a challenge at times in dealing with a different culture but provided with me insight on how a great portion of our world lives. Beyond that, I formed valuable friendships with young, energized and motivated students just like myself who hope, just as I do, to bring back their real-world knowledge on sustainability and development to not only their home countries, but furthermore to future international volunteer projects abroad.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Academics

    9

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Cultural Immersion

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

A program that has truly changed my life forever

This past winter, I experienced a trip that has truly changed my life forever. As a senior in college, I am fortunate enough to have been granted to opportunity to travel to many different countries. I always knew before I graduated though, I was adamant about being a part of a study abroad program. Once I applied and was accepted into the Field Study of Development Issues program in India, I was a little hesitant, wondering if I should have chosen somewhere more “progressed” for my own comfort ability. I decided to stick with the program, which was by far, the best decision I have ever made.

My experience in India was like no other in all of my travels. This was because in India, I was a part of the Global Citizens for Sustainable Development program hosted by John Anugraha. Global Citizens for Sustainable Development’s (GCSD) mission is to “To engage and empower children, youth, men and women to sustain communities, cultures and societies while promoting improvement in their social, economic and environmental conditions through the notion of human responsibilities.” Although we were just a small group of seven this winter, we were able to experience all of the amazing features India has to offer. Through this program, we were able to experience the city life from New Delhi down to Bangalore as well as being able to understand and participate in the lives of the families in the villages, which are two very different extremes.

We started off in the North, in New Delhi, where we were able to walk through the most amazing temples and masques in the world while interacting with the street venders. We learned how to use “rupees,” India’s money currency as well as embrace the cultural values as we walked barefoot through many of India’s sacred temples. We were given lectures on religion and the geography of India, as well as the caste system, which does still exist today. Our group specifically, was able to sit in on a very important conference on Global Consciousness and Global Citizenship during our stay in Delhi, where we heard the different views on important political and environmental issues from some of India’s most influential speakers including our own Indian course director, John Anugraha.

We were able to visit the exquisite Taj Mahal, where we learned the beautiful but somewhat dark story as to why and how it was constructed, as well as seeing the historical Red Fort. These are just a couple of the stops we made along our journey that stood out to me the most. Every different place we stopped we were given a complete description of what we were seeing and why it is important to India.
Throughout our journey we experienced an amazing assortment of foods, eating every few hours had become exhausting over time but the food had so many exotic flavors we could not resist. We were able to pick up the dining etiquette of India within just the few weeks we were there. Some of our group members even learned some Hindi, one of the native languages of India. We were submerged into the Indian culture and loved every single moment of it.
Once we landed in Bangalore, I can speak for the seven of us traveling in this group, that we all fell in love with this city. We had been given the opportunity to compare and contrast New Delhi and Bangalore within a matter of weeks. We saw the life of the streets in Delhi and the warm sun and hospitality in Bangalore. Little did I know when arriving, Bangalore would be the one city out of all of my travels to captivate my heart.
Once settled in the Bangalore, we spent a lot of time learning about more political issues that the people of India faced. We created presentations to share our perspectives as Global Citizens on the topics put before us. We traveled into small villages and literally sat down and spoke with the families who lived here. Being with these families was a once in a lifetime experience; its essence could never be explained in words. The way their homes were constructed, what they were constructed of, where they worked, how much money they made, how often they shopped, how long they have lived there, all of these were questions that the families answered for us, to give us a better understanding of their everyday lives. The people of the villages were so pleased and gracious to welcome us into their homes. It was an experience that will be with all of us for our lives.

Another influential moment for me was wearing my GCSD shirt that read on my back, “I’m a Global Citizen”, and helping construct a home for a single mother who was a teacher of the village we were visiting. She and her son worked side by side with us as we cemented their newly constructed home, while her daughter and many other village children taught us hand games and performed dances for us. We spent the day playing with these kids. Although there was a language barrier, amazingly, we all understood one another. Also, we spent time at Living Hope, a home for children where a community is built and the kid’s education is top priority. They sang and danced for us and even gave us a tour of their housing. We spent the evening playing games with them and had the best time. It took us all back to when we were children. So many adults do not take the time to appreciate life, and being at Living Hope made us realize how simple and pleasant life can be.

Last, but most definitely not the least, VEDIKE. VEDIKE was the most amazing, most humbling, and inspirational idea, which came to life. VEDIKE is an eco-residential school in the making, which bases the ideas on ecological responsibility, to educate and empower, to create a nurturing and green environment, working hands on with international students and letting nature lead. I saw the ways in which these ideas have become a reality. While staying at the VEDIKE, we met the six boys there at this time. Our memories are still afresh and we remember our stay with them, especially, Ashok, the smallest of them, yet an enormous personality, Sai, who was shy, yet opened up to us so much throughout our time there, Naveen, one of the best cricket players I have met yet, and of course, Manjunatha, the educational leader of the group, with the warmest smile. These kids taught us more than anything else on this trip. The struggles they had been through before they became students at VEDIKE, and just how happy they were. VEDIKE has changed their lives so much; they are all so intelligent and have inspiring dreams for their future. VEDIKE has given the boys hope, when their previous environments didn’t offer a platform for them to grow. That is the purpose of VEDIKE, a stepping-stone, a platform for change in these children’s lives. Leaving these boys was the absolute most difficult and emotionally draining part of my entire trip throughout India. I felt like I had known them for a lifetime. I cried my eyes out having to say goodbye to them. I never knew these little boys would ever impact my life in the way they did and for that, they will always have my heart.
As I said, I was hesitant at the last minute before heading to India, but the goal of this journey for me personally was to become inspired. I didn’t know how I would accomplish this or what exactly would inspire me but somewhere along the trip I knew my life had changed. I found what I was looking for in so many more ways than one. Religiously, spiritually, emotionally, in life, in education, in personal happiness, in all of these aspects of life, I have become inspired and I know I am a better person because I was a part of GCSD. It is a challenge for most, to go outside of our comfort zones but once we do, we can see how fulfilling a new experience can be. Even though I could continue for days about the ways in which being a Global Citizen of Sustainable Development changed and challenged my life along with discussing all of the fun activities we took part in, I truly hope this will inspire you to reach out, or even take interest in the GCSD and VEDIKE programs offered. It really is an amazing experience that you will only be able to experience through these specific programs offered.