Traveling and Learning in India

Photo of Maylen and friends from India

A blog post by SOLES PhD in Leadership Studies Student Ambassador Maylén Rafuls Rosa

As I write this, many Global Studies courses have been canceled or postponed due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus. I feel incredibly grateful that I got the opportunity to go to India in January with Dr. Maya Kalyanpur and several other wonderful colleagues from SOLES. India was definitely on my bucket list. I had already fallen in love with the food, but after my trip to India, I have also fallen in love with its people. 

Photo of Maylen and friends from India

During my month in India, I was able to visit several cities and states including Delhi, the capital, Mumbai, an economic and culturally important city, as well as Goa, Kerala and Tamil Nadu in the South. I saw urban centers teeming with activity and labyrinthine markets. I saw palm trees and beautiful mountains and beaches, especially in the South. I visited several religious sites, from Hindu and Sikh temples to Mosques to Catholic and Christian churches in the South. I heard Hindi, Marathi, Punjabi, Konkani, Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam and perhaps several other languages I was unable to recognize. Thanks to my friend Lenin Raj Thankaraj, who is also a PhD student in the Leadership Studies Department, I spent a lot of time with Catholic priests in the Southern state of Kerala, and learned about how Catholic charities offer an enormous amount of support to their communities, including providing education centers at all levels of the system, even into college! 

One of the highlights of the trip was visiting schools and meeting with teachers in a variety of contexts, from public government schools to low-fee private schools to independent private institutions. While I expected that there might be lots of differences between the Indian and US educational systems, I saw more similarities once I got there. I saw that there are huge inequities in how education is dealt out just like in the United States, and that in both countries, teachers are committed to doing right by their students and are fighting every day to provide them with the best opportunities, regardless of how difficult their teaching conditions might be. All in all, what I found most inspiring was the resilience of the teachers. 

Finally, when we visit a country, beyond all the different places we photograph or foods we try or experiences we have, and long after the memories of those things have expired, one thing always remains: our memory of the people. The people I met in India welcomed all of us with curiosity, openness and love. The Mumbai graduate students we interacted with taught us a great deal about their culture and educational systems; they challenged and stimulated us intellectually, often sharing resources that we certainly wouldn’t have had access to were we here on campus. Most importantly, I gained friends that I can truly say will be life-long.  We still communicate via Whatsapp every single day, and since we returned in late January, there is not a day which passes in which the people I met in India do not cross my mind. 

Photo of Maylen and Dr. Kalyanpur

I want to thank Dr. Kalyanpur for organizing such a beautiful trip. I want to acknowledge all my colleagues from SOLES and from Mumbai for their contributions to my life. Travel is such a transformative experience and whereas we were all strangers before this trip, I am now happy to call them my friends. 

About the Author:  My name is Maylén Rafuls Rosa, and I am a first-year PhD student in the Leadership Studies Department as well as a full-time high school teacher and coach. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about SOLES or about Global Study Courses

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