Just swim.

One thing I’ve learned is that you can’t fake your way through cultural immersion. It’s 100% real and unyielding; there is no choice in the matter on whether you like it or not, whether the culture is up to your standards, or whether you fit in or not. It’s very much like swimming: once you’re in the deep end, there is no choice but to swim. Whether or not the water is the ideal temperature or clean enough for you is irrelevant. Just swim.

As of now, I have studied abroad a total of three times. My first was to China for a cultural course consisting of an intense two-week study of Chinese history and Mandarin language. We visited all the cultural and historical sites we could see in Beijing, Xi’an, Qufu, Jinan, and Shanghai. My second abroad experience was Comparative Management in San Jose, Costa Rica, where we observed various businesses and production factories, comparing their work processes with those of the United States. Both abroad experiences were very different from each other, yet delivered similar results. Through them, I was able to observe cultural differences from the outside by making several conclusions that were sometimes based on assumptions due to a lack of understanding. Finally, I enrolled in Global Innovation and Entrepreneurship in India, which changed how I thought of studying abroad. Immersion and observation are two different ways to experience a culture. After completing the course at BVB, my preference is now immersion.

Since this was my first total immersion experience, I was not sure what to expect. Since we were doing group projects, my grades now relied on my ability to work with my multidisciplinary and multicultural team. What if the cultural differences were too difficult to overcome? What if we could not connect on a common understanding of the goals? What if we just plain didn’t like each other? These were some of the questions that ran through my head before beginning the course. Thankfully, all of my worry was for nothing. Working with my team was wonderful; we all worked very well together and was able to create a comprehensive and coherent presentation for our final project. Additionally, I feel like the lifelong friendships with some of the students at BVB is another priceless benefit of the entire experience.

What surprised me most about the cultural immersion aspect of studying abroad was how organic and fluid it was. There was no control over anything, it just happened. The bonds between UML and BVB students formed quickly, without plan or warning. Although we were from opposite sides of the earth, we had so much in common with the Indian students that it was startling. On my second day in Hubli, my team met with their company’s primary investor. After a very fruitful meeting, we went out to a local coffee shop called Seven Beans. As I sat outside in the pavilion, it was almost like I was in the United States with fellow UML students instead of in India with people I had only met yesterday.  I never could have anticipated how fast the friendships formed.

Over the course of 10 days, the bonds had grown so strong that saying our goodbyes proved a very difficult task. I witnessed grown men sobbing in tears and women holding each other close before parting. It was all very sad to see, but it was also an incredible thing to be a part of. Never before had I experienced working side-by-side with students in another country. I had grown so close to some of the people at BVB that it was very painful for me to leave. I am lucky that I live in the era of Internet communication. Otherwise, I’d need to write letters or buy a long distance phone plan in order to keep in touch with the BVB students. Hurray for the Internet!

Now, Hubli means something to me. It is not simply a city that I observed from the outside during a study abroad course. I experienced Hubli from the inside out, and that has made all the difference. I feel my ability to adapt and adjust to any situation in life has been strengthened even more than it was before. I learned a lot about who I am as person in the last three weeks by simply putting myself in unknown and unpredictable situations and adapting accordingly.

Remember: when the water is deep, the temperature doesn’t matter. Just swim.

-Rebekah Dufrene

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classroom time

What can I say about the actual classroom time that hasn’t already been said?

The good:

I really enjoyed the Seven Beans guest speaker. His story was inspirational. I had visited Seven Beans several times before the final day of class when he spoke to us. Being a fan of all things coffee, I immediately loved the atmosphere and social aspect of the place. It was great to hear the origin of the “seven beans” story, and to hear about the owner’s struggles and triumphs as an entrepreneur.

I also enjoyed the few times in class that we worked on interactive small team projects. It is much more of a learning experience for me when I’m actively doing something instead of sitting for a lecture.

The final project was a great learning opportunity. My team, Campus Cloud, met with the angel investor on the second day in at BVB. It was such an exciting and scary experience. However, he was such a nice guy that the meeting ended up with us all getting coffee at Seven Beans. Working on the project with my team wasn’t always a smooth process, but we were able to pull everything together and make a great presentation.


The not so good:

I agree with others that said the particular room that we were in made it very difficult to hear anything, even when sitting in the front. Every word that was said was echoed into oblivion. There were several days that I could not understand anything from the guest speakers. Even when the microphones were used, the sound was still echoed and distorted.

The classroom time could have been less “lecture” and more interactive. There was one day that we made a small presentation on a problem with a possible solution. That was one of my favorite days because I felt like I was doing something. I know this is just personal preference, but a +3hr lecture was not enjoyable for me.


Overall, I do feel like I learned a lot about the entrepreneurial process, especially since I was working with a start-up company. I’d recommend this course to anyone who wants to obtain a multicultural, multidisciplinary team experience.


Has it really only been 9 days?

Only 2 days left in Hubli. As my time here is coming to an end, I am feeling sad to be leaving all of the new friends I’ve made in BVB College. While visiting here, I’ve tried to take advantage of every free moment to have different experiences around the city.

In only 9 days, I have seen three hilltop sunsets, rode on mopeds, motorcycles, and cars through the “organized chaos” traffic of India, visited beautiful temples in Lakkundi, had two birthday parties with dancing and cake, went shopping in the street markets and two malls, had ice cream and cappuccinos, ate a delicious home-cooked meal at a BVB student’s home, and even learned a few words in Kannada.

What made these experiences especially enjoyable was not simply the food, sights, or sounds…it was the people that were with me. We have been welcomed with open arms by the BVB students, who are all as eager to share their culture and traditions with us as we are to learn and try them. I never could have predicted the connections that I’ve made with people here. It feels like we have been knowing each other for much longer than 9 days. As these final two days approach, I hope to add to the many shared experiences that have already occurred.

Also, we have some work to do with a team project. This is still technically a class, after all.

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2015 starts off with a bang

In less than one hour, I will be on the way to Logan Airport. I am so excited to see India and meet the students that we will be collaborating with during the program. I am also looking forward to working in a multicultural and cross-functional team. This is such an incredible opportunity to both expand my global awareness and also cultivate my ability to adapt to new environments and situations. Although I am filled with anticipation for this new experience, I will miss my husband and son. Being away from them may be challenging, but I know they will be safe and happy while I’m gone.

This isn’t the first time I’ve spent New Year’s Eve on a plane, but it will be the first time I’ve ever started the new year in another country. Without a doubt, this will be an unforgettable beginning to the year 2015. Next time you’ll hear from me I will be in New Delhi, celebrating the new year with my classmates in a memorable way.

See you all on the other side of this long plane ride.