By Alina Volper, ELP Lecturer
As an American, I forget what it is like to be a complete foreigner and stranger in another country. The experience of feeling like a complete outsider occurred for the first time when I visited India in 2012 and 2015.
I went to India because my husband is from there and I wanted to visit his family and his country. While his family was extremely welcoming and embracing, I felt like an alien specimen in the country itself. People were constantly staring, pointing, and asking to take pictures with me and of me. I sensed that I was under a microscope and being examined and studied everywhere I went. This was a very difficult feeling that I had not experienced in any other nation. In addition, India is a country that overwhelms you with the sounds, smells, crowds, and colors that permeate every activity and interaction. While this was eye-opening and incredible, it was also a very exhausting experience. I had to learn to embrace being a stranger and subject of curiosity for people. Traveling to India has made me less self-conscious because I stopped wondering why people were gazing at me and began to ignore the looks as much as I could. I started to enjoy the nonstop sensory overload that one can experience in this perplexing, bright, overpowering, and wondrous land.
If you are an international student at Chatham or an American thinking of studying abroad, I would advise you to embrace the experiences that you have, both positive and negative. It is normal to have a variety of occurrences when you are in a new place and the important aspect is not to let any undesirable experiences cast a shadow on the wonderful memories that you’ll surely have in the country. Don’t let any strange, bad, or unexpected situations ruin the amazing privilege and gift of studying abroad.