Following Gandhi Across India: A Study Abroad Interview
Marie Golberg is a senior at Roanoke College studying International Relations.
In May 2014, Marie and a small group of students, most of whom she didn’t know, traveled across the world to the Indian Subcontinent. As part of a three-week course titled, “Contemporary India in the shadow of Gandhi,” Marie traveled to all corners of the country to learn about Gandhi’s impact: from Delhi, to Agra, and all the way down to the South Indian state of Kerala.
What kind of accommodations did you stay in in each city, and how did you get from place to place?
Since we were a small group of about 15 and we were only there for 3 weeks, we stayed in hotels all around India as we traveled. Mostly we took buses from place to place, but we flew down to South India.
How did you “live like a local” and embrace the culture in your city day-to-day?
We drank kingfisher! (laughs). No, totally kidding. But we did really eat all of the local foods.
When we were in Delhi, and then again when we were in Kerela, we took a cooking class. It was pretty much us watching them cook, wondering when we could eat, but it was interesting. We learned a lot about how there is a different cuisine in the north than in the south. For example, a common “Indian” dish is Naan, but it’s more found in the north, so if you ordered it in the south people would look at you funny. In south India, we were exposed to lots of sea food! The use of spices were common in both foods, but what was interesting is that a lot of spices did not necessarily mean Spicy or Hot, it was just always a guarantee that our meal would have lots of flavor.
What were the most amazing cultural experiences you had?
I would have to say visiting the Taj Mahal, that was by far the most memorable part of the trip. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about the fact that I went there, and not many people at 19 years old have seen it.
There were other cultural things we did, like riding elephants which was incredible. On one of the last days we got henna, which is a tradition at Indian weddings, to get henna tattoos.
We also visited the chamber of commerce in India to hear speakers and were able to have a discussion with them. We did work with “Good Samaritans”, with people that were living in poverty, which was definitely present everywhere we went in India. We visited the temples, went shopping, and tried to do everything.
I know your class was focused on Gandhi, what was the most memorable thing you learned about him?
One of the first days we were in Delhi, we went to where Gandhi was shot. They have done such a good job preserving the place, and they have made the place where he spent his last days into a museum. It was so well put-together. They even had footprints on the floor to mark where he walked before his assassination.
How has this study abroad trip impacted your personal growth?
I can eat spicy food now (laughs). No, I’m just kidding, but it really was one of the best decisions of my life going on the trip and I became friends with a lot of different kinds of people, some of which I would have never met if I hadn’t gone.
It definitely made me appreciate other cultures and appreciate traveling more, I want to go all over the world now.
What advice/tips would you give to yourself before you went abroad?
Be careful of ice! Everyone warns you not to drink the water, but sometimes it’s easy to forget that means ice too. I got a Diet Coke one day and didn’t realize to ask them to hold the ice, so I had to chug it before it melted!
I also got really sick when I was there, so I’d look back and tell myself not to panic. I got taken to a doctor, and I took my shoes off and they made me wait on a bench. When they called me in, there was a small man sitting behind a really giant messy wooden desk. He had a wooden stool, and he made me sit there and he asked me what was wrong, and he just took my blood pressure and wrote me a prescription and charged me 900 rupees. So I never knew what I had, he never told me!
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