Since our Field School group has arrived in India at the end of April, we have done so much in such a short amount of time. Together we have gone to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, listened to many guest lectures, went hiking, toured around Dharamsala, visited the Masroor Rock Temples, and many more activities. Individually we have all been doing our best to adjust to a new culture, reflect on our actions, evaluate and increase our intercultural competence, and learn how we can be useful and productive at our volunteer placements. Overall, it has been a constant amount of activity, learning, and reflection. As the end of our trip draws nearer, however, I find that I am grappling with the question of how can I continue to learn from my experiences and time that I spent in India once I have arrived back in Canada?
Of course we will have the souvenirs that we bought, our pictures, and in my specific case the puppy that I adopted to remind us of our trip. These are the easy things to show and display to our friends and family at home. What will be more difficult is to demonstrate what we have learned and the lessons that we have taken away from India. In our pre-departure course we read about examples of young adults that had participated in volunteer trips in that past, that without reflecting on their trip after they got home, had gone on to forgot much of what they had learned. Some of these volunteers even described their past trips as a dream like experience, or break from reality. Many even said that they didn’t bother to describe their trip to others, and didn’t reflect or think about it much after they returned home. But I don’t want this to be the case for myself when I return home to Canada. I feel like I have learned so much about myself and the reality of short-term volunteer placements that it would be such a shame to ignore or forget this knowledge. That is why I think that it will be important to continue reflecting even after the trip is over.
Post-trip reflection is also important because I do not feel that all of what we have seen or done while in India will sink in until weeks, or maybe even months after it is all over. Only after we have all returned home and adjusted back to our regular routines, is when I think that personally for myself, I will really be able to evaluate everything that I have learned in India. As a result of this I feel that the reflection that I do when we get home will be equally, if not more important than those that I do here. It will also be important after India to visit past reflections and see if my attitudes and feelings have changed since leaving India, and why this might be the case. Thus, through continued reflection, and the way that I describe and discuss my experiences in India with my family and friends at home, I hope that even though the travel portion of my India adventure is over, the learning will not be.
Kendall B, Dharamshala Animal Rescue