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Notes from Abroad: Karolyn in Pune, India
Notes from Abroad is a new feature on the Off-Campus Programs website, in which we highlight small snippets of a student’s experience. This week’s feature is from Karolyn Grove ’17, a double major in Religion and Psychology currently studying abroad in Pune, India.
Bap re! I am over half of the way through my stay here in Pune! Realizing that the program is so close to its end has made me realize how much I have already accomplished since first landing in India. From the first day that I arrived in India, it feels like I have been faced with challenge after challenge. From jet lag to culture shock to illness to water rationing to bumpy bus rides, this experience has been extremely difficult for me. But I assure you – this has been a very good thing for me. Looking back now, I am almost grateful for the illness – almost.
As much as things here are challenging and sometimes even seem insurmountable, there is so much value in stepping away from the Western world for a while and experiencing what daily life is like outside of the United States. My entire worldview has shifted so drastically since coming here as a result of these challenges. That has probably been my favorite thing about this experience so far. I know that I am going to walk away from this program a better, more socially and environmentally conscious person that I was when I entered the program. Primarily, this experience has really opened my eyes to how much waste Americans create in their day-to-day lives. I thought that I was pretty environmentally conscious before I left, but now I am realizing how far I was from truly understanding the impact of my actions. In regards to waste, India has it right in so many ways.
For example, let’s discuss the bucket bath.
Showers, in the Western sense, are not extremely common here. Most people, from what I have observed, instead will fill a bucket with water and use that to bathe. (The process is simple but can be a bit difficult to explain concisely, so I suggest you do a quick search on “bucket baths” using your preferred search engine to learn more about the logistics of the whole thing.) At first this practice seemed like a major nuisance as it can be more time-consuming than showering and often includes in a bit of chilliness, but now I see it as a superior way of cleansing. It takes more time, but it can be very relaxing as long as you are not in a hurry to go somewhere – which most people here are not. You can get a little chilly, but the weather here is steadily around the 80s and 90s so a little chilliness is welcome. But the very best thing about a bucket bath is that you use so much less water than you would with a traditional shower or bath. These bucket baths have made me realize what a small amount of water is truly necessary to get clean, and how much water I waste with my 10-minute showers in America.
I can’t wait to return to America and share what I have learned with my friends and family, but for now I’m going to keep living it up in sunny India. Thank you so much to both the Gilman Foundation and to Ingrid H. and Dr. George L. Speros for making this experience a reality for me. I am so grateful for every moment here, the good and the bad alike.
Karolyn R. Grove