Open Up. Invest Yourself.
[Important Note: By now I’m guessing many of you have heard about the bomb blast that took place in central Delhi this morning. It is a very sad event. Twelve people have died and many are injured. My campus is far from the city center. The location (High Court) is a government, not civilian, target so I do not feel like I’m in danger. I heard the news from Daniel this morning, but didn’t hear much talk about it today in class or on campus. I want you all to know that I am safe.]
My birthday definitely marked a turning point in my time here in India. The post before that caught me at the low point of my experience adjusting to a culture and surroundings so different from those to which I am accustomed. Since my birthday I have begun to embrace India and each day I am feeling more comfortable in this new place.
In addition to my birthday celebration, a small miracle occurred on Tuesday and I am glad to report that we now have wifi in our apartment! This change allows me to connect more regularly with everyone at home and has made all the difference in the world. One such connection was an early morning conversation with my dear friend Mike Johnson who called me on a whim from his apartment in Washington, D.C. where he is attending law school. We have known each other since 7th grade, traveled to Spain together on a high school trip, and both attended College of Saint Benedict|Saint John’s University. He is one of the people who knows me best so it was really great to share with him my experiences so far and the recent turnaround.
We reflected on our study abroad experiences – his in London and mine in Viña del Mar, Chile. We both recollected when the “honeymoon period” in our new surroundings ended and we started becoming frustrated or feeling stagnant. Looking back on my Chile experience I think it happened at about the same time, six weeks in. We talked about the few painful days or weeks when we questioned why we had left home, what were we doing here, should we stay? And we discussed the internal change of perspective that took place as we adjusted and became more familiar. There is a theory behind this, the W-Curve of Culture Shock and Re-Entry. The study abroad office explained this diagram to all of us during pre-departure orientation:
I would say two weeks ago I was sitting at #3. Mike made the great observation that learning to live in a new place requires you to “Open up, and invest yourself”. First you must open up, approach the new experiences with an open mind and open arms. Next, find something that gives meaning to the experience. Find something that you care about, somewhere to invest your talents. The week before my birthday I was not very open or invested but rather frustrated and discouraged, about to call it quits.
My birthday and the following weekend changed my perspective. My birthday celebration brought together many of the great people I have met here, including my Rotary hosts, classmates, and friends from Rotaract (the university-age version of Rotary). Last week I was asked to anchor (emcee) the 25th anniversary celebration of the International Students Association (ISA). That took place on Sunday and was followed by an outdoor Freshers Welcome dance (in the rain!) I am planning to run for one of the officer positions in ISA during the October elections. ISA is a great group and the interactions with my new friends there remind me a lot of the amazing time I had as a member of Cultural Affairs Board at CSB|SJU. Here are some photos from Sunday’s event, which was attended by the Vice Chancellor of JNU, Dean of Students, and Faculty Advisor, and also featured some great student performances.
So each day I seem to find another little piece of my purpose here in India. I’ve started to think of my experience here like a camping trip during which it rains 80% of the time – the experience itself is full of ups and downs but you look back on it as one of the best times of your life. And after all, smooth sailing rarely makes for a good story right? I’ll close with a wise quote from Steve Jobs’ at the Stanford University commencement ceremony in 2005. He says:
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
Living and always learning,