Thanks for the memories, India!

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. 

After Week 1

After experiencing only half of this program, it has been nothing short of incredible. It all started with a challenge where the professors each gave us 500 rupees, which we were supposed to find a way to increase the amount of money so we could give the profits to charity. We raised over 30,000 rupees as a whole program, and it was amazing to see all of my classmates so excited over making a difference for the community. We also became super competitive in coming up with savvy business ideas that would make us the most rupees, and I loved to meet new people during our sales. That’s when I really started feeling like we were one big family: US, India, and China. I was meeting people who were so similar to me and who I truly connected with, yet they live halfway across the globe.

Ruike and I walking down the street of Hubli

Later in the week, we went shopping for sarees to wear on Ethnic Day. We all had a blast trying on the different colored traditional wear, we must have spent three hours in the store looking for our favorite styles and textures that we could wear in a few days where everyone would dress up.



This past weekend we went to a rock garden where there was a “rain dance”. We walked up to this area where people were all dancing under a downpour of water, almost like a miniature water park. The group didn’t even hesitate in running under the water and starting to jump around. The people there were so excited to have foreigners dancing with them and they were teaching us traditional dances, and I’ve never seen such pure joy. The rock garden depicted a lot of scenes from Indian culture, and it was awesome (and educational) to hear the Indian students explain more about each part of their history, society, and culture. The Indian students truly want to teach us everything they can about their culture and the US students are eager to learn, listen, then teach others all about our culture, in return. The energy within the whole program is infectious – you can tell how much everyone wants to learn from their peers and get the most out of their experience. At least two or three times each day I stop and pause and realize how grateful I am to be surrounded with this type of acceptance, positivity, and passion. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first joined this program but now, I can’t imagine not having experienced it all.

Flowers & friends


Getting Acquainted with India

Having never traveled outside of the country and my longest plane ride being less than three hours, it was safe to say that I had no idea what to expect from the GE2 trip to India. A 12-hour flight and food, people, and a culture I had never experienced before? Part of me was hesitant and definitely a little scared, but I was SO ready to jump outside my comfort zone. I have always wanted to travel, and I had fully embraced the culture shock that would come from visiting India.

After our three flights and a 6-hour layover in Bangalore, I can confidently say that I was practically an expert at going through airport security, finding comfortable positions to nap on the plane (even without a window seat), and navigating my way through unfamiliar territory. And the experience made my groups members so much closer, too, even though most of us had just met for the first time that day.

On the bus ride from the airport to Hubli, I couldn’t stop smiling. The sights of the city were nothing I’ve ever experienced before: intensely busy roads, buildings that looked far different from buildings in the U.S., and an overall buzz of excitement in the air. The university itself is beautiful, and I felt instantly welcomed when we arrived at our dorm. They greeted us with traditional necklaces and huge smiles, and at that moment I was so grateful that I decided to participate in this program.

KLE University, Hubli, India

I have experienced so much in just two days being here and I cannot wait to see what else is in store. On the first day of class, one of my team members from China brought my other three team members a small gift. I was blown away at how welcoming both Chinese and Indian students were of new people, and how different their culture is from ours. One of the main reasons I decided to go on this trip was because I wanted to experience cultures that were completely different than my own, having only lived in Massachusetts my whole life. It was incredible to see that the other students in this program were just as excited as me to learn about new cultures. One Indian student even said that they admired U.S. culture, and it put my own culture in perspective and made me realize how proud I am of my culture, and how lucky I am that I get the opportunity to learn about their culture, as well.

I am so looking forward to the next two weeks!