How did studying abroad affect your academic and/or professional career?
Study abroad was an incredible opportunity to explore my interests and hone in on the field I hope to pursue in my professional career. I am particularly interested in the public health field surrounding sexual violence, child abuse, and other forms of trauma and was given the chance to do independent research in this field through my program. During the last month of the program, I lived apart from the other students on my program at an NGO where I studied the prevalence of domestic violence and the legal, social, and cultural factors that keep survivors of violence from escaping their abusive partners. Although I hope this was a cathartic experience for the women I interviewed and I hope this work adds to a body of knowledge, above all, this was a personally beneficial opportunity. I created a paper I am incredibly proud of, I gained experience in a field I hope to continue working in, and I have started a project I hope to return to through fellowships or research grants.
How did you explore your hobbies, interests, and passions abroad?
Exploring your hobbies and interests while abroad is a great chance to learn about yourself and the activities you love, but also a lot about your environment, its culture, and people. One way I explored a hobby was through a small gym in Delhi that I went to after class a few days a week. Aside from meeting some very interesting people, this environment taught me a lot about India’s masculine workout culture, and in contrast, America’s. The loud music and nearly erotic music videos would never be seen in a gym here. I also found a rock climbing gym where I met new friends and did a few day hikes outside of Delhi.
Why would you recommend your respective abroad program or location?
SIT India was an incredible program, I highly recommend it for everyone looking to study abroad but especially if you're studying public health. As a public health student, I wanted to study abroad somewhere with different circumstances, issues, and complications. To me, it doesn’t make sense to study public health in say, Copenhagen or Amsterdam because of the similarity in overall economy and development. Although enriching in other ways, studying in these cities, or elsewhere in Europe, wont push your understanding of the many different public health issues around the world. As for non-public health majors, this program could still be a good fit for you, I was the only student majoring in public health on my program.
What should students consider when applying and preparing for their time abroad?
I watched some youtube videos about different prominent religions and did my best to learn some basic Hindi before leaving for India. Although you should do some general research on the city and the culture, it’s okay to feel unprepared or nervous, it’s a natural part of going to a new place. You don't need to know everything about the place you're going to be qualified, welcomed, and prepared to be there. Make sure you go in with an open-mind and a good attitude because things will be different, often more uncomfortable. Don’t let those things stop you from experiencing your environment and taking advantage of everything around you.
Did your identity impact your study abroad experience?
In a place like India, my white skin stood out everywhere I went and although extremely uncomfortable at times, it's one of the things I miss most. It’s fun being unique! During my research project, I found my identity as a foreign man to be somewhat off putting for the participants I interviewed, but I also think my identity was important in showing the wide array of people concerned about this issue. In a variety of settings people were interested in my Jewish identity but never in an inappropriate or uncomfortable manner. In general, yes, my identity impacted my experience abroad but that’s an inherent part of traveling and being an outsider.
Share a story about a time you experienced cultural immersion.
I think a story that illustrates my cultural immersion is a fairly mundane one. I lived in a neighbourhood called Lajpat Nagar, in Delhi, and my house was across the street from a large market. At first, the market was purely a spectacle with tons of people, shops, smells, noises, food, clothes, and much more. But as the semester went on, and I walked through the market on a daily basis, it became less novel, less intriguing, and more of a real place to do necessary shopping. I realized that as I walked through the market not a single person would stop to look at me in confusion or interest, something that I had become accustomed to, everyone simply did what they were there to do. The thing I realized about this experience was that the market was not made for me and no one there gave me a second thought. It's not created as a tourist destination or as a window into “Indian culture”, it’s simply where real people shop for food and clothing. Often while traveling, it’s difficult to see the places where local people do normal things so this market not only gave me a chance to see this, but be a part of it.