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10 Lessons Learned from Traveling Abroad

This past January, I had the opportunity to travel to India with the Agriculture Economics department. During the trip, there were many different emotions as it was an overwhelming, eye-opening, and sense-stimulating adventure. Here are just a few of the lessons that I have taken from my experience.

10. There is a job for everyone!

The government, of a country with 1.3 billion people, has their work cut out for them to keep their unemployment rate down. Street sweepers can be found everywhere. Now, this did not mean the streets were clean by any means. But it decreases the unemployment rate and gives their citizens a sense of purpose. There were also shoe keepers who we paid to watch our shoes when we went into temples. Most public bathrooms were not free and would have an attendant who the attendees would pay and get handed things such as paper towels and toilet paper.

9. Religions are interconnected.

We visited a Hindu temple and an Islamic mosque. The one pictured is the Hindu temple. It was fascinating to hear how all the religions interconnect with each other and Christianity. Hindus believe in a cyclical life. They are cremated and born again as the transfer of energy is passed down. Like Christianity, Hindus believe in a trinity god: Brahma, Shiva, and Krishna. It was interesting to see how the Islamic religion practiced prayer several times a day.

8. Travel is not ideal.

Of course, the fourteen-hour plane flights were not the best, but the traffic in India was something else. They have traffic lanes and traffic rules, but they are not enforced well. There might be six commercial vehicles and three motorcycles on a four- lane highway. There is also honking every second. It is their custom to honk, not out of anger, but to let everyone know they are there. We also had the opportunity to take a train and ride in a rickshaw. A rickshaw is a bicycle with a cart attached. It is basically a taxi.

7. Elephants are the best form of transportation!

The elephant ride to the Amber Fort was probably the best form of transportation we experienced. It is illegal now to capture and train elephants, but they are still able to use them for commercial purposes. Each elephant is only able to give six rides a day. This protects them from getting frustrated or angry with their riders. Wouldn’t being an elephant driver be the best job?

6. The spice market will make you sneeze!

Most of India’s food system is set up in small markets where vendors can buy their products in bulk to deliver to their community and sell for a profit. The smell of all the spices was powerful enough that even our tour guide felt the need to cover his nose! It is interesting to see another country’s distribution system though. In Kansas, we do not really think about small local markets to get our food or spices.

5. Food = spicy

Speaking of spices… the food was a mixture of flavors, random sauces, and a lot of rice. The chicken was not boneless and was not a piece of chicken like we think of here. This was just another interesting difference in how India’s food system works. They are not a value-added system. The chicken is bought from the street and is killed shortly after. They believe the meat taste better fresh and it is easy to raise chickens on the streets in small places. After two weeks, I was ready for beef and potatoes.

4. A beautiful story makes things even more beautiful!

The Taj Mahal is a beautiful love story about a king, Shahjahan Mahal, who finally married for love. His third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, died and was eventually buried in this mausoleum. We learned about the intricate inlay and marble that this was built with. The marble has never broken or weathered. The intricate inlay is done with precious stone and is placed with special glue. These stones have also not been disturbed since it was built in 1630.

3. Flower and vegetable seed farms are a lot of work!

Living in Kansas, we simply go to the store and pick up our bags of flower and vegetable seeds. It was very interesting to learn about how those seeds get from farm to store. Beauscape Farms has land in many different states in India. They do this to have a variety of weather patterns to grow successful seeds. Also, they must split up different seed varieties to avoid cross pollination. The land that we saw had drip irrigation in each row. They export their seeds to a company in Colorado called Applewoods Seeds. I might just move to India to be around flowering plants all the time!

2. India’s hospitality is like no other!

Everywhere we went we were greeted with baked goods, tea, and coffee. Their culture is to treat their guests as gods. They would get offended if a guest chose not to drink or accept their refreshments. They also delivered our luggage up to our rooms. Everyone made sure that we had bottled water and were well taken care of.

1. Our awesome faculty made this a trip of a lifetime!

Our faculty leaders, Mary Ellen, Dr. Barkley, and Cherie Hodgson, were fantastic! They took care of any miscellaneous expenses that we wouldn’t think of like shoe keepers and bathrooms. They made sure we got home safely even after we landed in Kansas City. This trip would not have been as smooth without them and our awesome tour guide, Raj.

Never would I have imagined that I would have been able to go to India. I am beyond grateful for everyone that helped make this possible. If you are even slightly interested in studying abroad, I would recommend applying for scholarships through the Education abroad office! If you have any questions about studying abroad or applying for scholarships, let me know or go to for more information!

In Sisterhood,

Bryn Swearingen

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