The beginning of a new adventure: Studying abroad in India

Here I am. After only a week into my study abroad experience, my heart has been cracked open, allowing the moving, bold, and bright India I have always dreamt about to seep inside. As most have heard, the traffic is positively insane, the food is spicy and the people are warm. Crossing the street may be a chess game of life and death, and walking around as a white and lost female tourist may result in way too many unwanted stares, but I am slowly finding my way in the beating city of Jaipur.

Throughout this first week, I have been stopped in my tracks, and forced to wonder at the bravery inside the people around me. Here I am with 13 other students digesting the same place at several different paces. Our tears of joy and fear have met full-hearted belly laughs, and that pair has decided to take refuge in our hearts, keeping us warm and full, throughout the semester.

Our instructors and our host families are helping to nurture our shock through support, kindness and constant reassurance, like the helpless kittens we are at the moment. We have decided to pick up what we know, and some clothes, and run across the world. In the stress that comes with such a choice, we each hold to the things that ground us most and find a way, like sunflowers, to look at the light. For me, family dinners, morning yoga and a loose schedule have filled my soul when my heart most wants to throw up and hide. These acts may not seem courageous, but I am learning that reaching for inner peace in the midst of unsettling newness is a whole new kind of bold. I am finding the more time I take to slow down and look around, the more my soul stretches in a feel good kind of way. I don’t know where I am going, but India, here I am!

Sophia Vander Kooy ('20) is a political science and international studies major with an unofficial passion for taking creative writing classes. She was the Production Manager at the Anchor during the spring semester of 2020, and previously served as the Editor-in-Chief. She is also a member of the Women's Track and Cross Country teams at Hope, the STEP Community Outreach Student Director and the Co-President of Hope Yoga. Sophia loves writing, being outside, cooking, running and connecting with all kinds of people. She has found the space to be herself at The Anchor and knows that she is not alone in that.

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