Samhita Nagaraj is a senior psychology major from Bangalore, India.
What did you expect before you came to the US?
“It’s not something I paid much attention to because I was…pretty westernized. I grew up in a highly westernized part of society, one, and two, part of my city. Americans come with [their] set of stereotypes and I was sure I would have to relinquish some of them, but culture shock was the one thing I didn’t expect to really happen. Because [in India] you’re hit with so much American media, you think ‘I know this.’”
What was unexpected when you got to the US?
“It didn’t really strike me until halfway through sophomore year what was really different. It’s really hard to make friends. The way people make friends is not at all like how people make friends back home.”
“I think people [in India] are a lot more willing to instantaneously bond over small things. People are a lot more sentimental in India. The average person is more willing to listen; people take more of an active interest in what is going on with you.”
“Back home, I consider that quite nosy and annoying, but the lack of that here is what made people seem colder. Although now I know people aren’t cold, they just think it’s rude to ask that many questions or seem like they’re prying.”
“Also, a lot of people aren’t concerned about the world at all. [In India] people shame you for not being well-informed about the world.”
Was there anything specific to the Midwest that you did not expect?
“I understand how there can be more serious issues like racial tension…but from what I’ve seen, the average people are just genuine, nice people and they aren’t really concerned with anything other than what someone is like to them. But this is from my own, biased point of view. It’s true, the Midwest Nice thing.”
What is one of the biggest differences between India and the US?
“I hate to say it, but the food. It’s really sad that…food, good food, is really hard to get and to eat healthy, you have to spend a lot of money. In India, even the poorest guy can walk into little darshini (roadside café) and get a plate of really good food that can sustain him through his work. He doesn’t have to worry about whether it’s nutritious…he’s probably not going to get sick from eating it his entire life.”
Are there similarities as well?
“The fact is that…people are people wherever you go. Two people from opposite sides of the world [can] have so many things in common. Two people who basically share nothing else can actually come together on so many different topics. That’s really beautiful and if there were more of that, I think people would have a lot less conflict. We ultimately want the same things.”
Annica Mandeltort is a senior anthropology major from Libertyville, Ill. who studied abroad in India in Fall 2014.
What did you expect before you went to India?
“I was just expecting something really different from here, especially since I’d grown up in a small, pretty conservative town. I was already obsessed with Indian music and Indian food, and so I was very excited about those cultural aspects that I’d already heard about and participated in here; I knew, of course, it would feel a bit different when I was there.”
What was unexpected when you got to India?
“It was even more than I expected…even though I had friends who had gone on the trip. I think you can talk about it, but it’s such a personal experience, especially with the independent study projects that [we did]. I never expected to be going and cooking with people in their houses…[but] that was my independent study.”
“[Being in Indian culture] blew my mind in good ways and bad ways, because you’re used to a certain way that society works here, and I am fascinated by seeing how it works there. A big thing is the treatment of women. I knew that…there would be a harsher treatment of women, but then actually experiencing it there was [a lot different]. It was interesting, being a woman from the US, trying to situate yourself [culturally] as a woman in India.”
What were the biggest differences between the US and India?
“Traffic in India is beautiful to me. It flows; it’s like a dance. How I always describe it is you have a jar filled with rocks, and those are your trucks and your rickshaws, and then you pour sand in it, and those are all of the two wheelers. It’s usually two lanes, but that actually means five or six.”
How about similarities?
“We’re all very proud of our nations. We show it in different ways, I think, but it’s very true. We like to hold on to what we think makes us, us.”
“I had a lot of family members be like, ‘…you need to make sure you’re safe there,’ but…the same exact things that happen there happen here. It fascinates me that there is [a] really big problem about rape here, but people [see] it in the news from there all the time.”