The hospitality in India is something that I really admire about the culture and I already know that one of the things I will miss most when I return home is how welcoming everyone here is - it is unlike anything I have ever experienced. From day one we were invited into all aspects of people's lives - their school, their hospitals, and their homes. Everyone has been so accepting, understanding, and excited to teach us all that they can about the culture and the language. They are also very proud, always making sure to mention how much they love the Indian culture.
While I could tell many stories that exemplify this hospitality, one occasion really stands out in my mind. After spending just a few days with the medical officer on the mobile clinic, she took us shopping for bracelets and sarees, teaching us how to wrap the saree and helping us choose one to buy. She then invited us to her house for a Hindu celebration that happens once a year where women come together to celebrate and bless each other with good health and well-being. Married women give each other gifts, sweets, and put red powder and turmeric on each other’s foreheads. The doctor put mehndi (henna) on our hands and forearms, which is tradition for the occasion. It was nice of them to invite us into their homes for this celebration, especially when we do not fall into the category of married women. Before coming to India I was somewhat concerned about adjusting to the Indian culture and I was definitely concerned about the negative events in Indian cities that had been covered on the news. The kind of hospitality and support we have been shown thus far has more than washed away those concerns.
I came to India looking for public health and clinical experience and so far the Center for Social Medicine has given me more than I could have ever hoped or asked for. Since being here, I have spent time in rural health centers, the mobile clinic, and various departments in the hospital. I also spent a week in Nashik learning about HIV projects for at-risk groups including migrant workers, men who have sex with men, and female sex workers. The variety of postings has greatly contributed to my growth as a public health professional as well as a person. I knew that my time in India would be life changing, but what I was not expecting was how quickly and drastically I would notice the impact that it has had on me. Living in India has given me a new outlook on the world around me and I am sure this will only continue to increase when I go back to the United States. Living in India has been unlike anything I have ever experienced and is something that I will definitely never forget. I was able to do so many things that I would never have gotten to in the United States and met some of the most amazing people, who have had a great impact on my life in a relatively short amount of time. I will forever be grateful for the opportunities I was given and for the people who have made my time in India so special. I am already looking forward to visiting again one day!