I hail from the “if you want to do something badly, better make it something big” tribe, so I bought a ticket to India and started reading about teaching, determined, but knowing full-well I could only do so much in a few weeks. Emphasis on determined. I’d consider myself a relatively seasoned traveler for 25 years old, but I’ve never done something like this before.
With only a few days left, I haven’t gotten to know the children as much as I would have had this been a longer stay, but I’ve gotten caught up in the relentlessly positive energy and kindness of so many students who are, without a doubt, going to do amazing things with their lives that wouldn’t have been possible without Shanti Bhavan. I arrived during exam time, which meant even fewer opportunities to teach the lessons I’d planned, but I decided to improvise and to re-evaluate how I can contribute to this beautiful place.
In the end, I’m rounding out three weeks spent in India and that feels pretty great on it’s own. I worked with seniors on their personal statements, I read to pre-k and kindergarten students (side note: they even got me to sing on one occasion), I worked with 10th and 11th graders on current events, I had third graders practice their typing skills, I squeezed in some lessons on grammar and writing, and I kept the 8th graders awake and focussed during study hall—not an easy feat. If anyone wants unused lesson plans for 7th, 9th and 11th grade English language, creative writing, persuasive writing, and literature, I’m your girl. And in an effort to do just a little bit more, I’m also channeling my marketing skills to help spread the word about the school in a BIG way, but more on that later.
Was my time in India exactly what I expected? Not even close. But even though I’ve never done anything like this before, my past travels have taught me that plans are often unpredictable at best and the sooner you learn to improvise, the happier you’ll be. Whether I’ve taught the children here one thing or 20, I’ve tried my best and approached everything with a smile. As for the lessons I’ve taken away, I’m not sure I’ll fully realize those until I’m back home and no longer jet lagged.
When I was younger, I was convinced I could happily spend my whole life traveling. While there are few things more magical than exploring a new place, whether it’s two states away or on the other side of the world, there’s something so incredibly powerful about coming back home with a camera full of photos, some souvenirs and stories, and the sense of accomplishment that comes with taking on so many unknowns by my myself.
I'm leaving for the 30-plus-hour trip back to Boston in an hour and I think I'll miss the amazing personalities of all the kids the most. Here's a sampling of the crazy/creative/always-smiling children who made this adventure so memorable (and one with some of my fellow volunteers)