Stepping off the plane in New Delhi I was immediately hit with that familiar humidity and chaos I felt during my semester abroad. It has been one year since I started my BCA program in Chennai*, and it is fascinating how everything I learned about living comfortably in another culture and continent came racing back in those few seconds. As a former student with BCA Study Abroad, I highly recommend returning to your program country!
This time around I am not staying in a dorm at Madras Christian College (MCC) in Chennai. I am not wandering about East Tambaram looking for my next fruit juice or snack, and I am definitely not in the capable hands of the BCA Resident Director, Anupama Pai!
Now, I am all by myself in the bustling city of Bangalore! Returning has provided me the chance to implement the five months of cultural understanding and day-to-day living that I kept stored in my brain in the comfort of Pennsylvania. I am completing a summer internship at the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore; an opportunity that came about because of my wonderful professors at MCC in Chennai! The benefits of a second trip are endless, but a few pertain to professional, social, and cultural aspects.
If you are an International Studies major, like myself, stepping out of the United States is a big help in the early days of your career path. During my BCA program, I completed an internship with the Chennai Centre for China Studies. On my first day, I attended a lecture given by U.S. professionals from the Stimson Center in Washington D.C., and I still keep the connection with the research associates I met that day. You never know where you will find the next business card and opportunity! As for my second trip, the internship here in Bangalore was insisted upon by an MCC professor and now I am conducting research alongside interns and PhD students on Myanmar! It goes to show that opportunities are out there, for those who are willing to act on them.
Within the social spectrum, giving a “second-go” at your country of study can give you a chance to reconnect with friends from across the world. In Chennai, I was the only American student, forcing my hand in meeting new friends at MCC and beyond. By the second month of my study abroad experience, I had immersed myself in a small clique, and we constantly went on trips and ate together around the city! Flash forward nine months later, and one of those friends actually met me at the airport in Bangalore just to help me settle in! Using apps like WhatsAPP and Facebook Messenger are a great ways of keeping up with friends in different time zones! Even former alums, like Lavanya from BCA Chennai 2014, who now lives in the city, are there to get a quick bite and catch a classical music performance!
Last but not least, a country’s culture is their calling card. You might call it a unique fingerprint on the world. Once you live in a culture long enough, it becomes yours to an extent as well. Indian culture is not for the faint of heart, with lack of elbow room and chaotic driving, but after a while it is easy to find yourself buzzing along on a scooter wondering why cars are going so slow! (It is important to mention that I only started driving during the second trip in Bangalore. No driving during BCA Chennai, it is dangerous!)
I strongly recommend visiting your program country if it is feasible! Whether it is a week of beach bumming, or pursuing you professional goals in a cramped office, the second trip is a whole new experience in the country you fell in love with!
About the Author – Marc Unger, fall 2017, BCA Chennai, India Alumni & Elizabethtown College Student
*The BCA Chennai, India program is no longer offered at this time. However, we encourage all who read this blog to understand that opportunities and experiences like the ones shared in this blog, are possible outcomes at all BCA program locations.