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Study Abroad in India Schools Augustana

During spring break, 24 Augustana students, including myself, traveled to India for a two week study abroad trip. The purpose of the program was to study grassroots activism and feminism in India. The group of students spent two weeks in New Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur visiting with organizations that focus on improving quality of life and empowering women.

 

 

One student that attended, McKee Jackson, described the study abroad as more of a sevice/learning trip than anything else. She explains that, “It’s important to realize that this wasn’t a mission trip, we weren’t volunteering. We were there to learn and observe.” In this way the India program differs from other programs offered at Augustana. The goal of the trip was to learn from people and organizations abroad in effort to bring those ideas back home, rather than the other way around. A handful of other Augustana study abroads, while well intentioned, tend to impose Westernized ideas and concepts upon other nations which can end up being problematic and unsustainable for the places they are “helping”. The India trip worked to be intentional in its efforts to avoid that and emphasize positionality while traveling.

For McKee, one of her favorite parts was visiting Kukrela Village in Rajasthan. She tells us that “The community was really important to me… being with a group of women that you don’t share a common language with, but could have such a connection with was really inspiring.” In the village we studied financial self-help groups and microcredit lending circles. Essentially, women in a village or small town will contribute a little bit of money to a pool that they can then loan out to the members of the group. These smaller loans are typically used for education, business start up, weddings, etc. McKee hopes that with the recurrence of this trip, Augustana can continue to develop a relationship with the women in the village, in order to strengthen those connections and ensure meaningful return visits in the future.

To say the least, the trip was physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausting for the group. In such a short time we observed and experienced so much, things that we will continue to process and reflect upon for years to come. McKee tells us that the biggest takeaway for her was the love that she experienced while she was there. She says “…at times it felt so overwhelming for some of us, we just didn’t know what to do with it. But it’s so genuine. I felt it from the women there… they love so hard and so wholeheartedly that it just makes you so emotional.” She hopes that she can apply what she learned about sharing love in India to every aspect of her life back home.

This trip was definitely one to remember. McKee (and I) encourage everyone to keep an eye out for it in the future!

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