"...the program just really appealed to me because it’s not just going over and taking classes and learning about the culture, but being a part of a culture…”
Erin B., an Anthropology and English Major, studied and interned in India spring semester of 2007 as part of the Minnesota Studies and International Development Program. "I had read books about India and was interested in Indian art, design and culture… and just kind of up and decided to go, and did it. And the Minnesota Studies in International Development program just really appealed to me because it’s not just going over and taking classes and learning about the culture, but being a part of a culture…"
Erin described her typical day usually beginning with Hindi classes and culture classes followed by an afternoon of market shopping or an occasional Bollywood film. "You walk in and we took classes for about seven weeks, just basic Hindi classes. Which gave us a little bit of writing basics, we learned the script, we learned ‘Hi, how are you?’ ‘My name is, my age is…’you really learn fast how to communicate when you need to tell people that I need to take a shower or I am hungry. So it was really the internship experience that taught me the language. Just by being immersed, which is a good part of the program."
Erin chose her internship upon arriving in India and with the encouragement and support of on–site advisers. “I went about 12 hours south to a city called Udaipur with an organization that works with tribal land rights and traditional health issues…they had medicinal gardens and taught different health classes, facilitated village discussions on self–sufficiency with health. I split my time between the office in the city and the office in the village and some days would go out into the middle of the desert and spend the night in an old woman’s house sleeping with the goat in the next room…it was amazing.”
Some of her day–to–day challenges included the understanding and incorporation of cultural codes and cues such as what to wear, table manners, and language barriers. However Erin found that the immersion helped with the understanding of these cultural differences. "Just being surrounded by people on all sides at all times, just out there and forming those bonds with people whose lives you never would understand if you didn’t understand them firsthand like that".