Reflections from the 2018 India Study Tour

In the January three-week block, Augustana students had the chance to explore India as a tour course offered either as religion or economics credits.

Tia Lalani - 26 March 2018

By Isabella de Goeij (business economics student)

Photo courtesy of Vinod As (our bus driver).

India is a land that ignites the senses. Vibrant colors, fresh and fiery food, pungent smells and the distinction between the tranquil sounds of the countryside to the boisterous noises of the city. Truly a land of contrasts, India has the ability to mesmerize whoever may come its way.

Upon first hearing about the India Study Tour-organized by Augustana's own professor Varghese Manaloor-we knew this was an experience we would want to partake in. Since returning from India at the end of January and having had time to reflect on the trip, we are thankful to have seen so much of the country in so little time. Though we only had 3.5 weeks, Varghese's meticulous organization skills ensured that our trip was nothing but action-packed and thought-stimulating.

After many flights (including a long but exciting layover in Dubai, and a skeptical in-flight experience with 'SpiceJet'), we began our journey in the hot and humid Kochi-a city located on India's southwest coast in the state of Kerala. From there we traveled to Bangalore by bus, then onto Chennai on the east coast via train. From Chennai, we flew to Varanasi and eventually New Delhi where we commenced our way back home.

In our 3.5 weeks, we visited many schools and interacted with students, discovering the differences between our education systems. We had our first exposure to the ramifications of India's tourism industry when house-boating on the Alleppey backwaters. We saw the beauty of the tea gardens in Munnar, learned about ayurvedic medicine and how to eat with our hands. We rode elephants and camels and saw many other species of wildlife along the way (mainly thanks to our fabulous bus driver, Vinod, who had an intense passion for animals). We floated along the holy Ganges river in Varanasi, discovered ancient temples and explored the acclaimed Taj Mahal. We also saw the unmistakable intersection between rich and poor, and witnessed an abundance of different religions, learning how they shaped India and its people today.

Despite the majority of our group being strangers prior to the start of the trip, the circumstances prompted quick bonding and we all had an incredible experience together. Varghese was a spectacular tour guide and we learned a great deal from him. If you ever find yourself wanting to encounter India in a fun, safe and interactive manner we highly recommend the India Study Tour!

Don't believe me? Take it from my classmates!

Our general route and some notable destinations.

"India was an amazing experience. Academically it showed me the importance of religion, by not only in relaying the differences but also the similarities in the ways we exist in this world. I think religious studies acknowledge a vital part of the human condition, and the trip was eye-opening and encouraged me to continue studying with the hope of making the world a better place." - Curtis Rempel (Philosophy and Religion Major)

"The economic conditions of India were truly fascinating. In rural Kerala, we toured a farm that practices agricultural development strategies for better lives for farming families. It was an eye-opening experience to see agriculture as essentially the same industry in its basics yet with a completely different agricultural system." - Jensen Manners (Business Economics Major)

"I knew even before I got accepted into Augustana that this India trip was something that I had to do, as the idea of this trip was one of my top driving factors to apply here. For me, it was the perfect way to safely experience and learn about a country I had always wanted to travel to. Being a psychology student, I was not quite sure how I could apply my discipline to this trip. As soon as we touched down in India, I was amazed by how much of my knowledge I actually could apply. It was fascinating to watch a group of students who really did not know much about one another spend 3.5 weeks learning about each other and this wonderful country. It was incredible how different India's culture is compared to Canada's, but yet when talking to the students and other individuals there, I learned we are all so very similar in many aspects of our day to day lives. I learned a lot about group dynamics, and how they can affect an individual's way of perceiving and understanding. I also was able to learn so much from the other students on the trip and how their knowledge caused them to see and understand India in a different and unique way. It is difficult to express all the sounds, smells, colors and people that I came across in India. I'm almost certain that no amount of pictures or words can do this experience the justice that it deserves. This trip had something in it for everyone. I hope that in the future, many will have the chance to partake in this trip. You can bet that if given the chance to walk in the bustling streets of India, snacking on the most delicious naan bread, surrounded by an insane amount of cows, the most wonderful professor and the most fascinating of friends, I would do it all again in a heartbeat." - Jaden de Waal (Psychology Major)

"As a biology student, the India trip was an amazing experience! I got to explore a vast amount of ecology and the various plants that can be found there are truly astounding. If you think it grows on a tree, you'll find it in India, and if you didn't think it grew on a tree, you'll find that plant in India too! And if you're not an ecologist, there is still so much to learn. For example, we were able to familiarize ourselves with a natural course of illness prevention that runs so contrary to western medicine that it was eye-opening. Whether you choose to follow their principles or not you would have to go there and see people's belief in it before making your final decision." - Jamie Cole (Biology Major)