Find Your India
During our plunge weekend in Buffalo, we had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Sherrie Hesse about her study abroad experiences in India. At the end of her presentation, she said to us, “My hope is that each of you find your own India.” This statement was extremely powerful to me because after all of the challenges that Sherrie had experienced, she still was able to overcome them to not only discover herself, but to also discover her purpose of place.
Art Credit: Tara Anand (@taraanandart)
As a Global Citizen Scholar, I think the idea of finding our own India is an important goal to have for the next three years. “Finding India”, for me, is opening yourself up to the world outside of your comfort zone and embracing it wholeheartedly.
Several years ago, I was an exchange student in high school. I moved to Germany and lived there for year. Before arriving, I knew absolutely no German and I barely knew anything about the host family that I was staying with. All I knew about them had come to me in an email — I was literally going into a country in the most vulnerable state possible.
There were so many times during my exchange that I wanted nothing more than to go home. It wasn’t until after I had been there for nearly five months that the language clicked and it wasn’t until the language clicked that I was able to make friends in school. I struggled more with understanding my surroundings and understanding myself in those five months than I had ever struggled with anything before. I was floating around the place I was in, unable to put roots down and fully grasp my purpose until my year was half over. But finally — finally — I found it. I "found my India", as Sherrie would say. I changed host families, I joined the school orchestra and the play, I started spending less time in my room and more time with friends in town. I finally found where I belonged in the city of Marl, Germany. I finally found where my puzzle piece fit into the much more complex picture surrounding me.
Over the past year here at Allegheny, I have once again "found my India" within the Meadville community. Just like in Germany, coming to Allegheny was a huge leap of faith for me. I had never visited the campus or met anyone here. Once my family left after orientation, I was alone again, just like in Germany. Luckily, "finding India" here was a lot easier than in Germany because there wasn’t that imposing language barrier.
The Bonner program really helped me "find my India" by really immersing me into the community, instead of just allowing me to float at the top of the hill where the College is. I know more about the downtown and surrounding area communities because of the work I do in Meadville and I am so incredibly grateful for that. After spending my summer here, I officially feel at home now, just as I felt at home in Germany and just how I feel when I go back to Hawaii — my forever home.
Looking back on all of these experiences of "finding my India," I realize that "finding India" is simply about finding and making a HOME wherever you are. India is a metaphor for any place that you are able to remove all hesitations from your being and release your heart into the community. The amount of time that it takes for one to find India is not set in stone. In Germany, it took me about six months. In Meadville, it took me a full year. For everyone and every situation, it is different. I have not had an experience yet where I have been unable to "find my India," but for a lot of people, a new place and a new community is just not the right fit.
As a Global Citizen Scholar, I not only hope that I can find another India, but I also hope that I can help other people find their Indias. Whether it is at a place like Vive La Casa in Buffalo, helping asylum seekers find their India’s in Canada, or it is elsewhere in the world, I am going to bring the spirit of India in my heart...because everyone deserves to find theirs.
~~ Emily Nan Evans (2017)