Laura’s Adventure

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I sat quietly in the Student Services building, feeling the weight of the finals week, moving out, and the semester settle on me. I was flying home in a few hours and was more homesick than I had been all semester. It was a lot of money to go to India, with the potential for more scholarships to come it, but no guarantee. I reread Rachel’s email, my eyes scanning over her advice and come to the closing sentence, “Laura, whether or not you choose to come to India this year, I know that if you truly want to travel and work internationally, you will be able to.” That’s it. This is the time in my life that I need to get out there and start doing what I have always said I wanted to do, to travel and to serve. I take a deep breath, walk to the counter and, submit my tuition: I am going to India.

As our program comes to a close I can’t help but feel so unbelievably grateful and blessed to be sitting where I am. When I sit in the Hyderabad company visits, in our group discussions, or even at breakfast, all I can feel is inferior. I sit quietly in meetings and listen to the intelligent people around me, hearing them ask specific and smart questions and I feel intimidated by their knowledge and understanding. But it’s in the best way, I also feel so excited! These people are a picture of where I could be in a few years and these are the people who I get to learn from for the throughout this trip.

I have participated in an annual mission trip from the time I was eight to the time I was eighteen. I go with my church and Amor Ministries to build houses in Puerto Penasco, Mexico. With this organization we go for a week, build a house for an impoverished family, and make a difference for that one family. It is an amazing trip, we really get to connect with a family for a week and make an amazing difference in their life. But it isn’t fixing the root problem, it isn’t even looking at the root problem.

On this trip are trying to look at some root problems. We are trying to develop solutions to problems that many people are facing, problems like how they can fertilize their crops more cost effectively, how can we help the water scarcity problem, and can we connect potential employees to employers.

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I am learning an amazing amount from the people around me, I get to watch how they think and process problems and what inventive ideas they can come up with having both a STEM background and also looking at it from a business stand point.

Dr. Morgan assigns a common summer reading experience and this summer he assigned a book called Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. In this book Dweck sets up a basic premise that there are two different kinds of mindsets one can have, a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. One with a fixed mindset is defined by his or her success, they see failure as a reflection of themselves while one with a growth mindset views every opportunity as a way to grow and learn. Working with my impressive peers it is easy to enter into a fixed mindset and become full of self-pity. But rather than allowing my self to enter that mindset I choose to enter a growth mindset, these are my peers and I get to be a sponge and soak up everything I can from this experience and their knowledge. I also get the opportunity to work with Dr. Morgan and learn from him and his immense experience in the business world.

This trip has been an amazing opportunity for me to continue to expand my travel experience but also to learn from some incredible people. After a long, always changing, emotional ride to decide to come on this trip I feel so blessed to have ended up where I have, in the presence of articulate, smart, caring people.

Here’s to the next adventure!

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Student Perspective: Alabamians in India

In Alabama, we like things a certain way. We like our sweet tea wit lots of ice. We like to wave at people we pass on the street. We love fried chicken, and we love our air conditioning, perhaps a little too much. Things like this are difficult to come by in India, and nigh impossible for the poorest communities. In India, tap water is unsafe unless it is filtered, and the cold supply chain is sketchy at best, so ice is a luxury, even in nice places. Every street is crowded. What would be little more than a one lane road in America will sometimes function as a three lane road in India. Honking horns are a fact of life wherever you go, and imminent collisions are just part of the process. While chicken is a big part of some people’s diets, food scarcity is common among the poor, and meat is often a luxury. Cooking processes for rural villagers are a bit different than what we think of as normal in America. Even though the government subsidizes propane, many farmers still use small brick stoves fueled by wood and cow dung. Coming from America, it’s important not to look at these things as problems to be solved, but as a way of life that must be understood if the poor are to be brought into the ranks of the world’s consumers. By developing products that support the needs of the people, rather than attempt to westernize them, India can become a laboratory through which innovation can drive the 21st century economy, all while alleviating the crushing effects of poverty.

Day 1: Appreciation of Indian Culture and Geography

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Today was our first full day in India.  We are starting our trip in Delhi, spending a couple of days learning about the history, culture, and geography of India, before beginning to explore the six segments of Indian people living in poverty, starting in the slums of Delhi.

We started the day with a history and anthropology lesson from our host, Mahesh Sriram of I-India. After the morning session, we hopped on a bus and went to a Delhi restaurant for a wonderful Indian buffet lunch.  Afterward, we visited Humayan’s Tomb.  Humayan was the first Mughal (a line of Muslim rulers in India) ruler.  When he died in 1565, his wife sent their architect to her home country, Persia, to study the architecture of Persian tombs.  He returned and designed this magnificent tomb, which was completed in 1572 and would later serve as the inspiration for the tomb his great-grandson, Shah Jahan, would build for his third and favorite wife, Mahal.  We know this latter structure as the Taj Mahal.

After the Humayun’s Tomb visit, we learned first hand about Delhi traffic.  🙂