Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Notes from the Field: A Taste of India

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Notes from the Field: A Taste of India

By Jessica Barringer

Jessica is a junior studying Civil Engineering at the University of Hartford. This spring she is spending a semester in Pune, India focusing her studies on development, environment and public health. This is Jessica’s third time participating in a study abroad program through UHart! 
I’ve been in India for a little over a month now, which is hard to believe.  In such a short amount of time, my senses have been exposed to so many things - new sights, sounds, tastes, textures.  While on one hand it’s been overwhelming, it has been extremely satisfying to learn to operate a normal day to day life in an alternative, quite foreign culture.

When I arrived, small tasks like crossing the street took so much energy.  Elementary functions we learned as children were suddenly drastically different as we learned to take bucket showers and eat entire meals with only our right hand.  Walking to school every morning was a constant battle with traffic; horns honking every moment – never knowing who had the right of way, which cars would stop for me and what vehicles expected me to wait.

However, as days turned into weeks, and now a month, my body and mind adjusted; it’s as simple as that.  Rather than feeling overwhelmed, I am now free to enjoy the beautiful city around me.  Whether it’s attending concerts, petting an elephant passing by, riding in a rickshaw, or just soaking in the city as I walk to class, I love being here and am grateful for the opportunity to learn so much about another part of the world.

A few of my favorite things:
  • Walking down the street and buying a fresh guava (or six) for lunch.
  • Wearing flip flops every day being normal.
  • Modesty everywhere I look.
  • Looking out the window at the program center and seeing a papaya tree just chillin'
  • Doing my homework in the sunlight of the back patio of the program center.
  • Paying $1 for a 20 minute rickshaw (taxi) ride to/from school every day.
  • Noticing the number of stares decrease as people get used to my/our presence in the area.
  • Crossing the street by putting my hand out to make the cars stop.
  • Eating a large lunch (including a drink/milkshake) for 50 rupees (about $1).
  • Walking to school every morning in late autumn morning temperatures.
  • Knowing the city well enough to be able to tell the rickshaw drivers where to turn (so they can’t rip me off!)!
  • Waking up every morning and realizing how lucky I am to be living half way across the world. 

Here are a few other interesting tidbits from Jessica's experience in Pune, India: 

  • Jessica received VIP tickets to see the world renowned sarod player Ustad Amjad Ali Kha.  (The sarod is a stringed musical instrument, used mainly in Indian classical music).  See his music here: 
  • As a part of her program, Jessica will be carrying out an internship with a company called Thermax.  For her internship, Jessica will document the current water usage in urban Pune.  She will be looking at the amount of water that can be recycled from current grey, black, and waste water and the costs involved in doing so.  She will also help Thermax compile a document with all of the regulations in place for recycling water in Pune.  As a civil engineering major with an interest in environmental studies, Jessica is ‘beyond excited’ about this opportunity to intern with Thermax!  To learn more about the Thermax project, visit:

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