Meet U.S. Department of State sponsored Gilman Scholarship recipient Karly Kahl-Placek. Karly was a Gilman Global Experience Correspondent for the Spring 2014 semester in Jaipur, India. The Gilman Global Experience allows Gilman Scholarship recipients the opportunity to record videos around academic and cultural themes to share with other students interested in studying or interning abroad in the featured country. For more videos please visit the Gilman Scholarship’s Official YouTube page.
Meet U.S. Department of State sponsored Gilman Scholarship recipient Karly Kahl-Placek. Karly was a Gilman Global Experience Correspondent for the Spring 2013 semester in Jaipur, India. The Gilman Global Experience allows Gilman Scholarship recipients the opportunity to record videos around academic and cultural themes to share with other students interested in studying or interning abroad in the featured country. For more videos please visit the Gilman Scholarship’s Official YouTube page.
I remember when I was a freshman in high school and I was advised to “cherish the next four years” because they were going to “fly by.” They did. I remember as a freshman in college when I was encouraged to “appreciate this time in your life” as “it will go by in the blink of an eye.” It did. When I was told that my semester abroad would go by faster than any other semester, I truly did assume that it would. And it did, in ways – but in other ways my time in India was immeasurable. Sometimes it feels like the past semester sped by, but other times it’s as if a lifetime was spent in India. Traditional senses of time do not apply when you go abroad.
There are many things I’ve seen in India that I can’t process yet here in the States, nor will I be able to in the near future. Likewise, there are many things that I now notice and get unhappy about. When I see people wasting water frequently, I am immediately reminded of how limited its availability truly is. I’m also reminded again of the high consumption of meat in the United States, whereas in most of India people typically have to go out of their way to find a “non-Veg” restaurant. I miss hearing songs from the latest Bollywood films and I miss seeing cows, camels, and yes – even the occasional elephant – walking in the streets. I miss jackfruit chips and morning chai (though I do not miss mid-day, afternoon, and evening chai – that got to be a tad excessive). Most importantly, I miss the beautiful souls I met whilst in India and the incredible experiences we had there. I’ve been talking about India a lot with my friends and family, which is helping me readjust to life stateside. I’m currently trying to incorporate everything I’ve learned in India into my daily life, which is proving to be challenging in this strange old environment. I can boil up my efforts into a simple act: make the most out of every single day, just as I would if I were traveling. I may not be traveling now, but my time abroad has taught me that I can always live like a traveler
For the most part, I consider myself a pretty easy-going person. It takes a lot to frustrate me, and luckily this trait has carried itself over with me into India. Recently, however, I had to tackle the largest issue I’ve had here yet: getting sick. The exact causes and diagnoses were unknown, but I had to remain hospitalized for two days here, in Jaipur. Hospitals are never “fun” places to be, even in the United States – but they are especially not fun in India. Without going into detail, I can say that there were many unpleasant experiences at the hospital that frustrated me as nothing had ever frustrated me before. I suddenly found myself at the lowest point of the traditional “Culture Shock” diagram… I felt completely helpless and yearned to be with my family in the United States. I had hours to ruminate on negative thoughts, which only made me feel worse physically. Eventually I got to a point where I had to decide how I was going to process this situation: was I going to let it overpower all of the amazing memories of the things I had seen, felt, and experienced throughout my time abroad? Or could I accept things for what they were and be grateful for all of the kind souls who were helping me? I chose the latter and came out of the hospital without any ill feelings (no pun intended).
Cesare Pavese once said “traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends.” Here in India, I think I’m beginning to understand what he meant.
The time difference here is eleven hours and thirty minutes ahead of my family back in the United States, and please don’t ask me how the “thirty minutes” thing got involved because it pains my brain to think about it. My point: communicating effectively with people half way around the world is often very difficult. Email tends to work out best, as it doesn’t require both parties to be awake at the same time. Skype and phone calls, however, are often more complicated to arrange and require you to rely on having electricity or access to the Internet at given times … and in the area I’m currently staying at near the forests of West Bengal, one can never rely on stable electricity or Internet access. Luckily my family and friends back home have been very understanding of dropped Skype calls and my frequent M.I.A. status. The unpredictable circumstances makes it quite easy to “lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends.” This is where adaptation comes into play. I’m glad to have met many close friends in my program – friends who can relate to the things I’m experiencing here because they’re experiencing the very same things. We find comfort in each other, and suddenly “home” feels like less of a physical place. “Home” is now wherever I am, so long as I am with people I care about. I agree with Pavese that traveling can be brutal – a beautiful brutality that forces you to read by candlelight instead of spend time on Facebook. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Hello World! My name is Karly Placek and I’m studying in India this semester. Back home I’m a Documentary Studies and Production major at Ithaca College in New York, though I grew up in a small farming town in Wisconsin. Here in India I’m studying sustainable development and social change at the School for International Training’s center in Jaipur, Rajasthan.
When I first stepped off of the plane in Delhi, the sights (and smells) of the city were quite overwhelming. I had never seen so many small shops in a city, each with colorful signs in a syllabary I could not yet read. There were people everywhere I looked outside –on the streets, in the markets, within alleys, on top of zooming motorbikes. This new environment seemed so claustrophobic. I had never lived in a large city before and suddenly I found myself in the second most populous country in the world. My first few days were spent driving around in “speeding” rickshaws, laughing at the antics of the many sneaky street monkeys, and succeeding – often times barely – at crossing busy streets stuffed with every type of vehicle imaginable. As I settle in with my home-stay here in Jaipur, I am beginning to see some clarity in what I previously saw as pervasive chaos. Sure, the traffic seems crazy to the foreign eye – but there’s a method to it, just as there is a rhythm to the movement of every city. Movement here just seems to be a bit more…staccato than in other places