When I was in India I missed pizza, French toast, clean water and the ability to communicate easily. But now that I am home I miss chaos, paneer with butter naan, bargaining and most of all seeing and learning new things at every turn. While I was in India time flew by and before I knew it I was on a plane back home. Now that I am home I have had time to reflect on my experiences.
Before I left for India I knew that there would be poverty and hardship but I did not appreciate how challenging life can be for Indian women. Since being home I feel very grateful for my life, especially as a women. I can choose whom I marry. I can sit on chairs with my family (around men). I can get medical treatment and go out whenever I want without asking for permission. Finally, I cannot only get a job if I want but it is the expectation of my family that I will be just as successful as my brothers. I have always taken these basic rights for granted and I cannot imagine my life without them. But after this experience I have seen that equality and autonomy for women in parts of the world is a dream, making me appreciate my own life all the more.
I learned so much that I hadn’t expected. I learned how to live through the heat; how to eat spicy food (although I still struggle); how to be flexible and know that things won’t always go as planned; that empowering women takes more than teaching them a skill and some business strategies, it takes generations and people who work tirelessly within the community to change social norms that limit women. And most importantly for my career, I learned so much about conducting research. I can’t imagine a better experience. The good and the bad, the easy and the hard, led me to learn at every turn.
I am so grateful to have had this experience. I not only hope to return to India some day but I hope to travel and learn in other parts of the world too. If I am lucky, I will have experiences as amazing as this one in the near future!