Exchange Diaries: Reflections on Pune, India

By Brent Moore (ArtSci ’14)

As the halfway mark of my exchange approaches, I find myself looking back fondly on the last four months. In a few weeks most of the Ontario exchange students will have returned home and a new batch will be filtering in for the second semester. Although I’m excited to meet the incoming students, I’m somewhat sad that our loose-knit group is soon to be separated. All of us arrived in India on our own with hopes, fears and expectations. We may have come here to achieve some level of independence or personal growth, but I realize now that none of us would have been able to get through it without each other. Last night I went back over some of my pictures and journal entries from the first few weeks here and was reminded of how lost I was and how much I relied on the support of fellow students during those first few days.

My first night in India was fraught with homesickness. After months of build up I was finally here, alone in a foreign country in the middle of the night with no way to contact anyone back home. I spent the next few days exploring the neighbourhood and school grounds. After a few hours in the city I was exhausted by the traffic, beggars, pollution and heat and need to sit down for a breather. Not every day was like this, but a good number ended with me passing out cold before 10 p.m., unable to keep my body going for any longer. Being so overwhelmed and outmatched had me down on myself until the others cheered me up. Their stories and attitudes reminded me that I wasn’t alone; we were able to collectively share advice and laugh at our own struggles. An interesting sense of community developed between a diverse group of people who would probably not have crossed paths back at home. We spent the following weeks experimenting with new foods, sharing basic Hindi words with each other and providing a sympathetic ear when others needed to vent.

Sitting at my desk, those days don’t feel like they’re four months in the past. I’m still the same terrified and inexperienced kid as I was on my first day in this country. So what am I going to do when the new batch of students show up? Will they come to me for information and advice? The thought of being looked up to and relied on is a scary proposition, but then I think back to the fear I felt arriving on my own in Mumbai at the end of the summer. I didn’t know exactly what I had gotten myself into, but with the help of some newfound friends I was able to navigate it and have fun every step of the way. I hope I can provide the same sort of support for the new group. It’s also my hope that all the outgoing Canadians have a safe journey home and feel that they accomplished all they could with their time here. I’m not sure how long it will be before I see this group again, but I certainly won’t forget their kindness and passion for adventure.

This will be our last Exchange Diaries post of the semester. Check out QJBlogs in January for more adventures from India, Ecuador and beyond.

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