So why are you going back to India?
I’ve been asked that a lot since I applied to UW in India. I’ve studied abroad in India before. I’ve been to Varanasi before. I speak passable Hindi. Why did I want to go back?
In reply I would always show people pictures of Varanasi: ghats crowded, havelis and mandirs bleached but still colorful. I want to live here I would say and instantly people would get it.
When I was 18 I saw the sun rise on the Ganga and I wanted to live here.
I’ve heard other exchange students say that they only felt themselves get in the swing of things at the end of the program. That’s definitely what it felt like for me. I had just figured out solid friendships, school, Hindi, and suddenly I was back in a hotel in Queens “debriefing”. I knew that when you eat chaat on the street you should hold your plate so that the chutney is near your hand and the hot chaat is away from your hand. I had just started getting better prices from the rickshaw wallahs. I needed an outlet for this knowledge. Most importantly, I left knowing how much I still had left to learn from and about India.
My Hindi teacher back in Indore said something once that stuck with me. We were walking to get chai (thrice daily chai is another reason I came back) and I asked him for advice after bombing my last Hindi test.
Dr. Rajopadhyay Sir told me “Fluency is a lifelong journey”. Students at our school had been studying English since kindergarten but they were still learning. It wasn’t the most helpful advice in the short term but I remembered it anyway.
Learning Hindi and understanding more about India wasn’t something I can do through a year of high school in India or a semester abroad, but I can commit to trying to learn more everyday.