India “truly an unbelievable experience”

Furman study away group is photographed at the home of Suresh Muthukrishnan.

NOVEMBER 29, 2011
By Tori Hedden ’12, Contributing Writer and Study Abroad Participant

Many students who participate in Furman’s study abroad programs find it difficult to relate the experience to those at home after the trip. To say that being in India is indescribable seems unfair to those who ask, but it’s absolutely true.

Our group of 18 students have been kept very busy and engaged in the culture and environment of India under the capable guidance of our trip directors Veena Khandke and Suresh Muthukrishnan. We spent the first five weeks of our trip at Madras Christian College in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. The remainder of our time is in Kerala and Goa, and the trip will be finished in Delhi and Agra.

Speakers and lecture sessions at Madras Christian College informed us on a variety of environmental, social, and political issues facing the people of India today, presented by professors, NGO (non-governmental organization) volunteers and researchers. However, most of our learning has been derived from our daily interactions with the people and environment around us, as we are immersed in India’s unfamiliar deportment and culture.

Though the focus of our coursework is earth and environmental science and urban and poverty studies, we have been learning much about Indian history, religion, music, art and politics during our travels. We visited nonprofit organizations, historical sites, countless churches and temples, a lignite mine, an ashram, and an elephant rescue center.

India is a developing country, but any perceived shortcomings or concerns we may have had about living here have either become non-issues or, at the very least, meaningful insights into the lives of India’s people. The kindness and thoughtfulness of the Madras Christian College faculty and staff, Dr. Suresh’s family and many others we have met through our travels may rival even the United States’ own famous Southern hospitality. India is at once baffling and absurdly familiar, saddening and beautiful, welcoming and foreign, and truly an unbelievable experience.

Our group will return to the United States in mid-December. To follow our progress and read about our experiences, please read our class blogs.