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International Center

University of Missouri

Life in India

by Krysta D.

During winter break, I visited Pune, India. While there I did a public health internship for KEM Hospital. Visiting India was such a humbling experience. Not only did I get to immerse myself in the Indian culture, but I learned so much about myself by doing so. I learned to be more comfortable in my skin. I also learned to check my privilege. Similarly, I learned the importance of treating foreigners kindly in America.

In India, I stood out. Not just because I was a foreigner, but because I was African-American and I had long maroon twists in my hair. I knew I would get the stares, but what I did not know was that the laughing, pointing, pictures and touching of my hair would continue the whole time I was there. While I adjusted well to most things fairly easily, this was the hardest thing for me to adjust to. In America, I’m used to being one of a couple or, the only, African-American student in my classes, but Americans are not quite as bold as those in India are. Many people touch my hair without permission or come up and take a picture of me. While this made me uncomfortable, I learned to cope by being comfortable in my skin. Embracing my long maroon twists, smiling and waving at those who pointed or laughed at me helped me to adjust.

Student standing outside underneath trees at a rural clinic in India.

Happiness — visiting a rurual clinic in Pune, India.

Checking my privilege came next. In India, I had to check my economic privilege. While I come from a low income, single-parent household, my mom worked very hard to provide me with everything I needed. I always had food, clothes and shelter. In college, I don’t make very much money but I have a job that pays well. What I cannot pay for, my mother and my family will help with. Through my internship with KEM Hospital, I worked with many low income families. The families I interviewed made an average of 5,000-8,000 rupees per month (about $77-$123.) Most families had to support a family of four or five. Some families would have to decide if they would seek medical care or feed their family for the month. I have never felt more fortunate and blessed. After interviewing these families, I started to check my privilege and understand why so many families face the diccifulties they do. This experience made me much more passionate about public health and working with low income families in the future.

Several MU students posing in a selfie with their interpreters - Pune, India

All the interpreters and MU students.

The most important lesson I learned was to treat foreigners in America kindly. You see, one night my roommates and I went to a place called Coffee Republic. Coffee Republic was a nice coffee hosue that had Wi-Fi and served waffles (KitKats, Twix, blueberry, etc.), teas, milkshakes and many other things. After eating and using the Wi-Fi, we caught a rickshaw (like a taxi) home — or so we thought! We ended up on the other side of town, lost and confused. We stood out by being females and Americans, standing on a corner. After trying to call our rickshaw driver (who did not speak English), a kind Indian man walked up to us and asked if we needed help. I graciously handed him my phone and he helped our rickshaw driver find us to take us home. Without that kind man, I don’t know how we would have gotten home that night. This lesson taught me to be kind to foreigners and be willing to step in and help.

Eight MU students posing as a group in Pune, India

MU takes Pune, India!

Now, for a lighter topic — my host family and new friends! My host mom, Priya, and host dad, Uncle, were very kind to me during my stay. Priya cooked Indian dishes for me every night and although I am very picky, I found myself liking many vegetarian dishes. Priya would do henna sessions with me and also have tea time where I learned more about her culture. My interpreter, Yash, was very sweet and took me to several restaurants where “chicken biryani” became my favorite dish. The other interpreter would take up shopping or help us find cool places to discover in Pune. They took us right in and always made sure we were happy and comfortable. Without them, my experience would not have been as great as it was and I am eternally grateful for them!


About the blogger

Krysta D. is studying abroad on the Health Science Internship in India program in Pune, India.

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