FSU Global Scholars: Reflections on a Summer in Kolkata, India

The Global Scholars program at Florida State University helps students secure summer internships at nonprofit organizations in the Global South (Asia, Africa, Latin America). Currently in its seventh year, this program was developed by the Center for Undergraduate Research and Academic Engagement and provides students with a challenging academic and personal student development experience that is both low-cost and high-impact. Global Scholars receive training before departure, complete a class-based research project during their internships, and connect their experience abroad back to the Tallahassee community in the form of a capstone project upon their return. The Global Scholars program was designed to cultivate active citizens of the world who can utilize research and critical thinking skills to engage with different cultural perspectives and make a positive impact in the global community.

 Global Scholars are required to maintain a blog throughout the duration of their time abroad. Read along to get a glimpse into the experience of a Global Scholar before returning home at the end of the summer!

 

 

I’m a week away from being home and I’m feeling slightly overwhelmed with a whirlwind of emotions. But before I begin with my self-analysis, I’ll share a few important reflections.

There were many barriers and hoops that I jumped through to get here [Kolkata]. I came alone and confident in the organization I’d be interning with. I came here not knowing if I’d be able to sustain my obligations in the U.S. but something told me that I was supposed to be in Kolkata this summer. I’m usually away from home while I’m at school and handle everything on my own well. But I’ve found that I’m afraid of leading myself in the wrong direction. I’ve become more confident in affirming my steps even when I don’t know the “right way.” It took me almost two months to feel confident with finding my way around the city since I was very unfamiliar with the street patterns. The bus system was confusing and I couldn’t find anything that had a map that could tell me where each bus went. I usually took an auto or Uber if I went to another side of the city. I’ve learned that I like to feel included and hate being excluded from bonding activities. Though being stereotyped is common in the US, I didn’t quite know that many people in India thought that African-Americans didn’t exist. Some teachers were confused when I told them I was from America even though I am of African descent. I’ve become more confident in my art forms because though I’ve met disappointment, I have also met praise and reassurance. I’ve become more appreciative of my performing style because I’ve always been unsure of it and my writing has taken a back seat as a result. I’m looking forward to sharing any and everything about my experience in India because I see that advocating for study abroad programs is easy for me. Though I have some alternative thoughts on execution and a few other things in regards to the norms of Indian society, I think that my time here has shown me that I’m more than ready to travel alone again. I have to do some self assessments and evaluations of how I’m using my time back in America. Though I am obsessed with opportunities, I need to work harder in my art forms to stand out more. I’ve been depending on traditional methods to push my work into the world. I’ve found that I have to create my own lane for spreading my words/art. I don’t give in to disappointment easily and I believe that’s been my driving force for everything I do. Being in India has made me more resilient to set my own standards for what I do. I caught myself amazed at how much I’ve changed but I’m not surprised. I felt like I wasn’t growing enough back in the states and needed a bigger challenge.

I definitely believe that I am, by nature, a teacher because of my persistence to show students that they too have a story that should be heard. On my second to last Friday, I did two performance workshops at the U.S. General Consulate in Downtown Kolkata. Every second was nothing short of emotional, motivating, and eye-opening. I think that day was the first time in a while that a student ever told me that they “look up to a teacher like me instead of athletes and doctors.” I had to hold back from crying because I’m almost 90% sure that the majority of the kids and adults in the US don’t want to be teachers. Seeing those students light up and just about beg me to stay was confirmation. This experience has shown me that no matter where I go in the world, I am bound to give my time to the youth. With that, the first thing I’m going to do is have a big meal with my family and talk to them about traveling the world. My family has big aspirations but not a lot of self-confidence when it comes to traveling outside of the western hemisphere (excluding South America). By starting conversations about the importance of traveling to uncommon places and putting oneself in uncomfortable situations (within reason and are safe), I hope to inspire them to take the first step that will change the rest of their life. Once they follow my foot steps (if they do), I’ll be planning some talks in Jacksonville and Tallahassee about my experience in India. 

I have to start somewhere before I show students how to go anywhere, right?

Read more of Dwight’s blog posts on his Omprakash blog site here!

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