Semester Shift

The end of the semester is rapidly approaching in a way that almost doesn’t seem real. At this time next week I will have turned in all my papers and final exams, said good-bye to all the semester-long students, and will be an hour away from boarding a train to Delhi that will mark the beginning of four weeks of winter break travel. Despite all the things that need to be accomplished between now and then, I want to take a study break to reflect on this semester as whole.

Four months ago I got off the plane in Delhi, looked around the airport, and thought to myself, “What have you gotten yourself into?” I met my program director, the tiniest and hardest-to-find-in-a-crowd woman, at 1:30AM on a muggy night outside the arrival gate. I remember the car ride to the hostel, and I remember being deposited alone in my room and talking aloud to myself to convince myself I was going to be okay. I brushed my teeth with bottled water because I was scared of the bathroom’s tap. The next day I met the program assistants and my fourteen fellow students and thought there was no way I would be able to keep everyone’s names and faces straight. I thought the sweltering late-summer heat would suffocate me in my sleep. I didn’t think I would ever feel comfortable walking outside alone, become immune to the unrelenting stares, or get used to cars driving on the left side of the road. Every scrap of food was suspect to suspicion.

I remember all these things and wonder how and when exactly everything changed, because it all seems so extraordinarily ordinary now. Do things in India always make sense? No. Do they always end up the way I want them to? Also no. But I have to marvel at how far I’ve come here, and I have to say that I’m grateful for the reality check this year is giving me. Mainly, it’s teaching me that I cannot control every aspect of my life, and that’s okay. Life seems to have a way of working out, or at least it has so far.

I’ve also been reminded that the world is not such a scary place, something that I think I was forgetting as I approached this year. Of course it’s important to be cautious, but putting up too many walls can make it hard to connect with people. For however many people I’ve met or interacted with in India, I can only think of two or three who have been unpleasant. I sincerely believe that people here, and everywhere, mean well.

This might be the first time I have ever wanted a semester to last longer. Usually at this time of the year I’m counting the minutes until winter break starts, but this time it’s different. Even though I’m looking forward to being done with my exams, seeing more of India, and all the good things that will happen next semester, I’m hesitant to celebrate the end of this one. I don’t want my semester-student friends to go, and I don’t want to admit that my time here is nearly half over. That said, I can’t be too unhappy, knowing that I’ve been lucky enough to have these friends and this experience at all.

Since I’ll be traveling for the next few weeks and I don’t know if I’ll have a chance to post, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, wherever you’re reading this from (special shout out to my mom and her co-workers!) I hope you have a chance to relax, and that you can spend the holidays surrounded by people you love.

Bread being cooked directly in the ash of cow dung...Yum_
Bread being cooked directly in the ash of cow dung…Yum
Sunrise on the Ganga
Sunrise on the Ganga
s most advertised Lassi shop
Being tourists at Varanasi’s most advertised Lassi shop