“How to Articulate Your Experiences” was the title of a workshop we had on the last day of my study abroad program. I was in India at the time, huddling for warmth at a safari resort with seventeen other people. We were students in SIT’s IHP Cities in the 21st Century. Over the past couple of months, we had traveled to Argentina, Senegal, and finally India, learning about inequalities and instabilities in cities. This workshop was zero help and I still struggle to explain the complexities of my program. I had developed a good system of explaining that my favorite country was Senegal, because I got to use my French to make new friends at a music festival I stumbled upon while on vacation in another part of country. It’s the quintessential study abroad story, the kind that most people want to hear: I did things I would never have done in Lancaster; I made friends with locals; I traveled by myself. But while those experiences are some of my most memorable, they were not the most defining. The rest of my three months in three continents is a harder story to tell.
What’s important about any program, and especially the one that I had done, is that nothing can be taken out of context. My identity and those of my peers, my professors, my homestay families, and the national identities of the places we visited were so relevant that my program could not possibly be replicated, even if someone else were to take the same classes in the same countries. We started with two weeks in New York City, my hometown, where we quickly learned about each other. Some of us had very personal experiences with the issues we were engaging with: gentrification, public housing, food deserts, immigration, race, language barriers, and access to information (just to name a few…). Throughout our time in Argentina, Senegal, and India, the academics became interwoven with our other, more social, experiences. In Argentina, we learned about the struggle for adequate and equal access to housing. We visited cooperative housing communities, squatter settlements, slums, and government-sanctioned public housing. At the same time, my mom was back home in NYC, searching for a new place to live as we had been priced out of the neighborhood that I had grown up in. It was impossible to not find connections. While in Senegal, we visited Gorée Island, one of the most important points of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. At the same time, we were catching up on the news in the U.S., reading about the ongoing trial of Darren Wilson. In India, we learned about Hinduism as a new kind of Indian nationalism and I reflected on my own upbringing as a Hindu as well as its dominating force in my home country, Nepal. Needless to say, I learned a lot in a short time and my study abroad program gave me the tools to continue exploring issues in urban life that interested me.
Shrima Pandey '16
New York City, Argentina, Senegal, India
Term Abroad: Fall 2014
Ware College House
Minor: International Studies
- Off-Campus Study Ambassador
- THRI: The Human Rights Initiative
- Creative Writers Corps, Writer's House