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A semester in India

Staff Writer

Published: Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Updated: Wednesday, September 1, 2010 17:09


One of the great things about going to college is being exposed to a larger scope of life than one would normally be accustomed to. UNCG not only provides this opportunity for students in the classroom, but through the Study Abroad program as well. By taking advantage of this opportunity, students are able to experience other countries’ cultures firsthand, gaining valuable life experiences and meeting people who will forever change their lives. One witness to this is Caroline Hughes, a UNCG senior who spent last semester studying abroad in Hyderabad, India.

Hughes is an International Global Studies and Women and Gender Studies double major, with a minor in Anthropology.

Hughes decided to go to India after previously spending a semester abroad in Spain.

Hughes said that she, “loved Europe, but India was more in keeping with my life goals. In the future I want to do international fieldwork, helping women in the culture there.”

Hyderabad is located in the southern part of India with a population of around six million people—making it the sixth largest city in the country. There are twenty-two official languages, which can make communication difficult at times, but English is the official language spoken at all the universities. 

Not only are there many languages spoken in India, but the culture varies greatly from region to region.

Hughes commented on the movie Slumdog Millionaire and if it represented the “real India.” “Yes, maybe to me,” Hughes replied, “but everyone has a different perspective on what the ‘real’ India is—especially the people who live there. You could say ‘the nicest people live in India’ or ‘the meanest people live in India,’ and both would be true. It’s a land of extremes . . . maybe that’s why it’s so addicting.”

Hughes also described her most difficult times in India. “For me, it was some of the things that I saw there.” She proceeded to tell a story about how she was out driving one time and saw a gathering of people on the side of the road watching a man and woman fighting. The man hit the woman hard, in public, but no one did anything to stop him. “It was disturbing,” she said. “Domestic abuse is common in India, but people don’t do a lot about it.” However, Hughes also made the point that “India is not about its sadness’. It’s beautiful, and so are the people. All of my friends there—especially the men—were the least sexist people I’ve ever met.”

One of the fun things about being in India is that there are festivals all the time. In fact, if you look at the Hindu calendar, there’s one nearly every day. Classes are cancelled for them at least once or twice a month. Hugues said that Diwali, the biggest one, is like Christmas in India, and the sky at night is completely lit up with fireworks. There’s another holiday that lasts for three days, where everyone across the nation flies kites together. The festival that she talked about the most, however, was Holi. The night before the festival, there is a bonfire which represents a time of renewal. Holi itself is a celebration for the coming of spring. On the day of Holi, people buy powdered dye, then throw it on anyone they encounter—mainly in the face—or it can be mixed with water and dumped on people. Hughes said, “When my friends and I went to the main part of campus that day, everyone was running around, attacking each other with dye, and yelling ‘Happy Holi!’ There weren’t any classes that day, so when it was over we went swimming in the lake on campus.” Hughes enjoyed the festival so much that she’s in the process of organizing a celebration for Holi here at UNCG this coming spring.

Hughes was in India for a total of six months. Four were spent studying at the University of Hyderabad, however, she loved being there so much that she decided to stay an extra two months—not studying, but spending time with the friends she had made during the first part of her stay. 

Hughes stressed that the most important thing to remember when studying abroad is to “meet the local people there and build relationships with them—don’t spend your whole time traveling. It’ll make your time there more rich. I think of my Indian friends as my family. I went to their villages and towns, and I even met their families.”

After she graduates in the spring, Hughes plans to return to India again to work with Vandana Shiva, the “face” of Navdanya. Navdanya is a seed-keeping and organic farm research group, with an eco-feminist focus.

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