It is hard to put into words exactly how the Fulbright-Hays Group Project Abroad to southern India has affected my life personally and professionally. Having never traveled overseas before much less out of the Midwest, I was eager to begin my educational journey to India with my fellow colleagues. Little did I realize at the time, that the country of India along with its diverse population and culture would leave a long lasting impression on me.
My experiences in India have enabled me to construct a broader picture of India within my classroom—a picture that most textbooks exclude. My students have gained an appreciation for a country that is often known in most textbooks for being a poor, overpopulated country with limited technology and resources. Although some of this is true throughout parts of India, my students also view India as the world’s largest Democracy whose struggle for independence is very similar to that of the United States. They have also come to realize that one uniqueness of India is the diverse religious and ethnic populations living together in the country with little conflict. The people of India show pride in these differences through their daily lives.
The Fulbright experience has been a springboard for my professional career. It has allowed me to serve as a contact person in my district for other teachers whose knowledge of India is quite limited. I have spoken to many grades not only within my district, but area schools as well. I have also spoken to community organizations and student teachers about my experience and how important it is to bring different cultures of the world into our classroom from our own personal experiences. These experiences promote learning and understanding at a different level than textbooks allow.
The minute I set foot off the plane into Madras, I was completely overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, and smells of India. I will never forget the congestion of traffic and all the horns sounding to help maintain the flow of traffic or my first shopping experience at Spencer’s Plaza. For the next five weeks, my affection continued to grow towards a country and culture that is often misrepresented in textbooks. No matter where we went, we were always greeted by the Indian people who were eager to learn more about us as individuals and why we came to India to study. Many of these individuals wanted to invite us into their homes for coffee/tea and to talk about our experiences in their country. I never imagined that after the short amount of time I spent in India, that it would be an unforgettable experience. I am proud to say that my home away from home for the summer of 2003 was southern India.
Amy teaches middle school for the Belmont Community School District in Wisconsin.
Go to Amy’s lesson plan (Middle Level):