In the Summer of 2017 I packed up a very small bag and headed to New York for my initial student orientation at Long Island University. The orientation was very relaxed and helped to introduce me to my fellow travelers.
We then proceeded to fly across the globe to Delhi, India, where we were greeted by AFS staff and taken to a nearby resort. Our living quarters were quite luxurious and the orientation beyond thorough.
When the program in my host city began, I was without much support from staff or volunteers. This was not the case for most people, and most students had a wonderful AFS family in their host cities. Despite my independence, I managed to create my own network of friends- both foreign and Indian.
AFS India was a smaller entity than many of their other country's operations, so they were visibly limited as to involvement. Despite their size, however, they made sure that we as students were always safe and secure. There was never a moment that I felt lost in the system or in danger.
If I could do the program over again, I would be more vocal to the few volunteers that were with me in my host city regarding the challenges that I was facing, and if anyone is considering embarking on a similar journey, I encourage them to do the same.
India as a location is phenomenal. The people are incredibly diverse and unbelievably welcoming. However, unless you look like an Indian, you will always be noticed, practically wherever you go. It was a difficult adjustment for me, but I soon came to terms with the innocent curiosity that the people had for foreigners.
The food is rumored to be spicy and hard to digest. At first, I agreed with this rumor whole-heartedly. However, after a mere week I came to enjoy it. Compared to American food, it has little diversity, which is also an adjustment. High carb consumption and low calorie intake are also difficult diet factors that I had to adjust to. The taste is great, but it can leave you feeling malnourished to an extent. Be prepared to bring protein powders, and know that Amazon India is a great resource for resupply.
All in all, I saw things that changed my perspective on humanity itself, all the while making relationships that I know will go on for a lifetime.
At the end of my program, we had what felt like two end-stay orientations, the first in Delhi where we spent time reflecting on the past year, and the second visiting the Taj Mahal. Both experiences went smoothly and I regard the memory as a whole as the most fascinating experience of my life thus far, and the beginning of a life-long desire to experience more colorful cultures.