YI was instrumental in shaping my priorities and worldview by giving me the opportunity to challenge myself and my ideas about the world and my place in it.
A few key features drew me to this program over other programs:
- homestays: I lived with a teacher for part of this program and assisted in her classroom
- educational opportunities: I took Indian cooking and music classes
- physical component: I took yoga classes and we did a several day meditation retreat (no talking!)
- community service component: I liked that this program doesn't advertise that you'll 'change the world' because Brad and the program staff know that what you learn is so much more than the otherwise feeble work we can offer (besides lots of awesome cross-cultural understanding and some lifelong friends... made all the easier now in a tech world!)
- small group that is responsible for itself: this program is great if you can't find buddies to travel with, but don't yet want to travel on your own
- program coordinator Brad has longstanding relationships with country organizers and logistics folks which allows for greater impact and learning
- that we traveled to many places, but spend a few days to a week (or more) in each place (at this point in my life I didn't want to stay in one place for a long time but sample lots of new things)
- ecotourism: halfway through we took a week 'holiday' in Thailand and went scuba diving and relaxed... it was a welcomed break before India
The couple that led our semester were wonderful leaders who had worked for the Peace Corps and other organizations, as well as traveled extensively on their own. We had much independence on the program, this being a program for youth who want something more than traveling on their own, but don't expect people to do all the travel work for them (eg. we'd know where we need to get our train tickets, but we'd have to get there and get the tickets as a group... so awesome to have this support and team atmosphere when traveling in Asia for the first time).
One strength of this program is that they're small, but have also been around for awhile. I went on the 2002 program (I think it was that year... it was definitely awhile ago)! In the decade-plus since I've completed my undergraduate degree, thesis-based masters program, teachers college and worked for several years around the world, but with focused work in remote fly-in communities in the Arctic.
This program is a great stepping stone to independence, exploration, and adventure...