The culmination of the GE2 program involved lots of turbulence on the plane ride home, tons of fun the last few days in Pondicherry and Chennai, and some really heartbreaking goodbyes. I never thought it would be this difficult to leave India, but I found myself feeling bittersweet when the plane took off from Pondicherry to Boston. I was excited to see family and friends – but I was leaving so much behind. I would forever treasure these memories with my new friends from India and China.
During the last night in Hubli we exchanged gifts with our Indian friends and reflected on the fun times throughout the past 2 weeks…
Crossing the street for the first time seemed ages ago – the Americans all linking arms and shrieking as bikes drove a little too close – now we were seasoned experts and walked with ease through the crowded streets. The mini rush of adrenaline was an everyday part of our lives at that point.
Eating noodles, naan, and trying various spicy dishes at the restaurant across the street from the university was a regular lunchtime occurrence. We shared stories about our hometowns and laughed about how different America was from India…Cows in the street, while normal in Hubli, would cause mayhem in the streets of Lowell. I formed friendships over fried rice and garlic naan, then raced back to the classroom so we wouldn’t be late for the afternoon lecture.
We would even miss the classroom experience which seemed tedious at the time but, in retrospect, made all the students so much closer. Especially during the last night before the project was due…everyone was huddled together in the dorm with our laptops and a nervous energy permeated throughout the whole building. Personally, I wasn’t sure if we would finish our project in time, and I was certain I would stumble over my words. But I gained confidence just by being around the supportive environment of my peers. When the teams presented the following day, everyone cheered after every group presented their project. Who knew I would find such a strong support system halfway across the globe?
… All of these moments would completely change my outlook on travel, meeting new people, and experiencing new cultures. At this point in the program, I never wanted to leave India.
After a tearful goodbye from KLE University and the Indian students who we became so close to, we departed for sightseeing in Chennai and Pondicherry. The temples, architecture, and churches were incredible. We walked through marketplaces learning how to bargain with shopkeepers and how to ignore hagglers who would follow you for half a mile before realizing you weren’t going to buy their products. At one of the churches in Chennai on top of a mountain we could see the whole city. We made our way to Pondicherry where we spent the day by the ocean, dancing spontaneously and basking in the sunlight.
On the last day, we got to the airport extremely early – we couldn’t even check our bags in yet. But our group made the best of it by hosting “talk shows” within our group, reminiscing on the trip, and making sure that everyone had enough snacks to hold them over until we would head for Boston. After a long flight, we landed in Boston and I said goodbye to my UMass Lowell friends. And after spending a few days in the US, I can’t help but feel a certain sadness of not being in India anymore. This experience and the people I met have changed me for good; I know for sure that I will go back and visit because a part of my heart is still in Hubli. Here’s to many more adventures and friendships that will last forever – all because some strangers decided to spend three weeks in India and ended up having an experience of a lifetime.