Student learns yoga, experiences different culture studying in India
By Kati Hoffman For The Times
Aug 08, 2012 at 2:15 PM
As a junior at St. Mary's College of Maryland, I chose to take a semester abroad.
My original desire was to travel to Oxford, England, but that all changed. As an anthropology major and a sociology minor, I have an extensive desire to observe and absorb knowledge of cultures different from my own.
I decided to challenge myself by attending Pondicherry University for a semester...in India.
The first two weeks in India I spent on a two-week tour.
As I traveled with my fellow American students, we visited all the highlights of Indian culture. From Hindu temples and landmarks to the tea fields of Kerela, we experienced everything together.
Most of the time our eyes were full of wonder, but occasionally there was some sadness.
India, like every culture, carries the good and the bad. We were experiencing all of them.
The tour gave us the needed knowledge of Indian culture, knowledge that would be utilized during our four-month academic semester at Pondicherry University.
After the excitement of the tour and settling into the Foreign Student Hostel on campus, my mind stopped spinning long enough to start thinking of home back in the States. India was tough, we did not have the accommodations that one is used to in the United States. For instance, drinking water had to be taken from a certain filter, toilet paper was a must to carry everywhere because it was not guaranteed to be found in bathrooms, language barriers made it difficult to communicate and most of all, I never stopped sweating.
It made me appreciate the normalities of home. Yet, once I realized how to live in the Indian culture and made some fantastic, unforgettable friends, I had the time of my life.
Every moment was an adventure and every second was a learning experience.
One of the most profound experiences I encountered was participating in both a traditional yoga and south Indian classical dance class at a local ashram. This was not the typical westernized version of yoga or the perceived "Bollywood" dance. These classes were the real deal. I was learning not only the poses in what is called "Ashtanga" yoga, but I was taught the meaning behind every movement, every breath and every thought.
I learned how to conduct correct stances and hand movements called "mudras" in order to tell a story through south Indian dance. I still practice the same yoga routine at home in the States.
I went to India expecting to spend 4 or 5 months going from class to class and absorbing all I could. Yet, what it come down to is that the best learning occurred just by going outside.
I not only fell in love with Indian culture, but I learned an immense amount about myself and my own culture.
I bonded with the other students from the United States, became close with other foreign students from France, northern Indian, etc., and met some amazing students and teachers from Pondicherry; all of which I still keep in contact with, even from across the world.