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by saraspatula

So after being at home for a few days now, I’ve had some time to reflect on what an incredible trip I had. To conclude this blog made a list of the top five favorite things about my DukeEngage experience. There were plenty more things I liked, of course, but let’s leave it at this:

5. Transport: I’m putting this on the list because how I got around played such a big part in how I experienced India this time around. In past visits with family, we’d just go around in a relative’s car, and sitting on the inside of a car, you don’t really get to see the country the same way. This time, in share autos or city busses, or on the backs of friends’ motorbikes, I saw a different India. I got the chance to see the country as it was meant to be seen, and the ability to get around on my own at my own speed made all the difference.

4. The Locale: Rural India was new to me. As someone who had only seen Indian cities (and grew up in the suburbs), the pace, the attitudes, and the conditions initially took some adjustment. After the first couple of weeks, though, I felt like I was at home. Visakhapatnam District is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

3. The Food: Indian food is different in India. I’m not sure if I can say it’s better than my mother’s cooking, but it was certainly fantastic! I grew up eating Indian food that had twinges of Western influence, but it was a very interesting cultural experience to be able to have “true” Indian food.

2. The Work: This was another first for me. I’d never done fieldwork like this, and the experience of going out to an unfamiliar place, planning a project, executing it, and ensuring sustainability was incredible. I think that the skills that I developed doing the work that I did are going to be indispensable in future endeavors that I undertake, whether they involve social work or not. DukeEngage’s training (and support) was invaluable to me, here. They helped me work out what to do when the project isn’t going perfectly, and for better or for worse, I think I’m better than I used to be at dealing with problems that come up during project work.

1. The People: Finally, my favorite part of the trip. I was worried going in that I would not be able to connect with anyone in Visakhapatnam District, and loneliness was a huge concern. Two and a half months without friends and with limited Internet connection was looked pretty grim. I was lucky, though. The people I met really opened up and let me into their lives. I was really able to not only get a glimpse of what it’s like to be a rural Indian, but also to make many friends. I’m never going to forget guys like Dharmaraju, Krishna, and Chiranjeevi, because learning from them forever changed my perspective. They made my stay unforgettable, and I am very thankful for that.

I have uploaded the pictures from my trip to Google PicasaWeb. Take a look if you get a chance.

Maintaining this blog was not only a great way to connect with friends and family while abroad, but also a medium for me to get my own thoughts out onto the page. I’m not sure if I’ll ever take a trip like that again, but I know that my struggles in this trip have prepared me for the future. Finally, many thanks to all of you for reading, understanding, and following my adventures this summer. Sincerely,