Reimagining India, the experience of a lifetime

Samuel G, Bachelor of Engineering / Bachelor of Business

IndoGenius: Reimagining India Experiential Learning Program (February 2017)

New Colombo Plan mobility grant recipient

The ‘Reimaging India Experiential Learning Program’, conducted by IndoGenius, expertly introduced me to Indian culture, politics, entrepreneurship, innovation, history, economics and a variety of other business aspects. The program immersed me in experiences that broadened my perception of what it means to be alive, reprogramming many of the Western ideologies I have grown accustomed to. Some personal and professional benefits I have taken from this program include: a deepened understanding of myself, the development of various cultural competencies, the growth of my emotional intelligence and finally the improvement of my ability to communicate across cultures. I am certain that my experiences in India will influence my future decision making after university. I now have ideas of moving to India to work and travel, creating a social enterprise that increases quality of life in developing countries and even smaller things like taking up yoga and meditating regularly. Some highlights of my experience in India are shown below. 

Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh

This man noticed my fascination towards his pet monkey that was sitting so politely on his shoulder. I asked if I could take a picture of him and his monkey, but he insisted that I take the monkey and get a picture with him myself. The monkey was awesome. He enjoyed eating a few flowers from my necklace also!

Agra, Uttar Pradesh

This was one very enjoyable afternoon by the pool at the Trident Agra Resort. Team Indogenius knew how to travel with style. I relaxed in the pool, watching the sun set with a few of the other students. 

The Lotus Temple, New Delhi

The sun was setting here over the Lotus Temple in New Delhi – a place where people of all beliefs can come to worship, meditate and reconnect with themselves. It was an honour to partake in a guided meditation here.

Dharavi Slum, Mumbai

The feeling of community and connectedness was incredibly strong in Dharavi. The people did not have much, but they at least had each other. The resilience, determination and willpower of the people living in this community was truly inspiring and motivating. Further, some 10,000 companies are operating in this space generating a yearly revenue of approximately US$1 billion.

Bicycle tour before sunrise, Mumbai

This was a great opportunity to experience India by bike, which is fitting considering it is the country with the most bikes in the world. We rode to some notable sights – the most incredible of them all was a small Islamic shrine where there were dozens of people lined up (before 6am) to worship and give offerings to their respective gods. These are places of incredible spirituality and openness, places that allow for one to strengthen the mind.

Havan Fire Ceremony, New Delhi

Experiencing the Havan was truly a spiritual journey for my mind. I was able to shut off the outside world, the material world, going deeper into myself. This allowed for a deeper reflective and meditative state, where I was able to let be what has been, and start to live my life more in the present.

New Delhi

We blocked the street as we danced alongside our marching band to the temple (featured previously) where we experienced the Havan ceremony. Koustav, who is wearing the dark green Kurta and blue scarf, guided our dance and direction, navigating the traffic like a pro.

Old Delhi, Delhi

Meet Ben, Casey and half of Alex. These are three of the many incredible people I met on this journey. The relationships I formed throughout the program have been forged for life. Especially considering I am likely to move to India and work for this program. Like I said, a life-changing journey.

The time I spent on the Reimagining India program was some of the most conscious and aware moments of my life. I was truly present in all situations, brought upon this newfound concept of focus. The personal benefits of such experiences are endless, examples include a deepened ability: to think critically, to think abstractly, to listen actively, speak consciously, to live in the present and to overall just embrace life, living it to the absolute fullest.

I would like to thank the Indogenius team, New Colombo Plan, QUT Business School and QUT International Short-Term Mobility for making these two life changing weeks possible.

Applications for the 2017 Indogenius program are now open! Apply here.

Celebrating Holi Festival in India

We are officially half way through our exchange period here in Mumbai. Whoever thought that 3 months could go so fast? Going on exchange has been one of the most invigorating, challenging and life changing experiences- the chance to explore another country as part your studies and converse with our students who share the same passion as you has been an opportunity that I couldn’t recommend highly to anyone else.Ind1

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Whilst being on exchange in India, it has given me and my partner Dom the opportunity to learn about the history behind traditional Textiles and local folk stories as well as the many techniques which influence these textiles. We have been able to put these in to practice by making our own scarf using a traditional styled loom; a hand woven mechanism which is still used throughout Indian culture today. To say this was a long and tiresome process would be an understatement, but the end result was absolutely pleasing and made me appreciate the hard work and art form that goes in to making hand woven goods. We have also had the chance to learn about various block and screen printing forms; another techniques which is still prominent throughout Indian culture today. From designing our own collections to learning the compositions behind fabrics, to learning the business side of the industry, the university offers a vast knowledge base on everything that you need to know before taking the leap into the Fashion Industry yourself. University here is extremely different to that of QUT. Here, it is 5 days a week, some weeks even 6 from 9.30-6.

Since being here we have explored a lot of Mumbai. Our first trip into the city, or CST as it is referred to here, we took the ‘local’; a train where your sense of personal space becomes a distant memory. The many times we have been to CST, there is always something new to see or something different to taste. Going to Marine Drive at night was very incredible. Kilometres of street lights, lining the harbour, replicating that of the ‘Queens Necklace’. Laying on the sand at Chowpatty beach was another highlight as it gave us a chance to sit back, relax and experience how other people live. Flying kites, lighting lanterns, picnics by the water and enjoying one another’s company is a daily ritual for the people of Mumbai. Whilst at Chowpatty beach there was the annual kite flying festival, where the colour was full of brightly coloured kites. As part of a university report, we had to visit Kala Ghoda, the arts and crafts district of the city. Here a yearly festival takes place and we were fortunate enough to go, showcasing the best of Indian textiles- both old and new as well as viewing the works of some of Mumbai’s up and coming designers.

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Whilst being here my taste for Indian food has definitely developed. A common food here in Mumbai is Pani Poori, an afternoon snack which has become popular amongst college goers. Homemade Indian curry, freshly toasted roti’s and lassie are another of my favourite, some I will definitely be taking back to Australia to replicate at home.

The beauty about India is that each state or town offers something completely different. We have just gotten back from our first trip out of Mumbai. Last Thursday India celebrated Holi. We decided to venture to Goa, to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and catch up on some R&R. Goa was great, a completely different scene to Mumbai- with beaches, paragliding, night markets, river cruises. We plan to travel more after the semester is finished as we are limited for time at the moment! Something to certainly look forward to.

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Exploring Goa

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Holi festival

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Mumbai – City of Festivals

Today marks the tenth week my partner and I have been living in Mumbai, India for our exchange at the National Institute of Fashion Technology.

During our time here we have enjoyed shopping our way through multitudes of bazaars and markets, sourcing different fabrics and beads from the hundreds of stores available, eating out basically every single night (food is incredibly cheap) and of course bonding with our new pals who have shown us the ropes of college life.

So college in India, how is it different to studying at QUT? I’ve noted down in a few dot points how it differs.

– Dorms. Yes these don’t exist just in American teen films they are rife around the world including in India.

– Workload. Here classes go from 9:30-6:00 Monday to Friday and sometimes even Saturday’s, so the workload is quite intense when being compared to my QUT timetable.

– Festivals. India is renowned for their festivals and it seems that at least every fortnight we are here there is another festival, which is amazing of course. There was the kite festival, spectrum, Kala Ghoda’s art festival and soon the Holi festival where the whole country throws coloured powder at each other. Think of it as a national colour run.

Whilst studying abroad can be stressful at times due to living outside the norm it is worth it as nothing can replace the exploration of an entirely different way of life that still completely fascinates me.

Here are a few shots from my exchange in India so far.

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Why Asia is Baller

I’ve been reading Andrew’s blog on costs, and have decided to do a similar blog. However, apart from being highly derivative I thought I would advocate Asia as the best exchange destination.

I, like many, have dreams of living in Europe; a white Christmas, partying in Ibiza, sunbathing in the Greek islands, falling in love in Paris and generally being Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday. The ability to travel through 44+ countries is an tempting opportunity. But my heart is in Asia. It offers the same deep cultural experience with an exciting twist – constant challenges and surprises – at a much lower cost (and better weather!!)

This was a $3 30min ferry away.

Four Reasons Why Asia is Baller.

1. Costs

There’s no doubt about it, Asia is way cheaper as a destination; its both closer and day-to-day expenses are well below those of Europe or America.

To give an idea, I’ve constructed a list of usual costs I’ve experienced in Hong Kong, one of the more expensive cities. Many are much cheaper (Bangkok, Mumbai, Mainland China) while many, like Japan are very expensive.

*In (approximate) Australian dollars.*

Meals

Home Cooked Meal – $5.00
Home Cooked Chinese Meal – $2.00
Breakfast at a local diner – $3.00
Lunch/Dinner at a local diner – $6.00
Dinner with few friends and beers – $10.00
Expensive Lunch/Dinner at a western café/restaurant – $30.00-$40.00
Expensive Lunch/Dinner at a Chinese café/restaurant – $20.00-$30.00
All you can eat restaurant – $20.00
McDonalds Burger Meal (the universal cost measure!) – $4.00

Living Costs

Accommodation (whole) semester – $1000.00
Laundry – 0.70c
Two weeks worth of phone credit (assuming you’re moderate user) – $8.00

Shopping

Basic Tshirt at H&M/Cotton On/ Similar – $10 -$15
Tshirt local designer – less than $20
Branded tshirt – $50-100
Decent guys shoes (branded) – $100.00ish
Paperback Book – $20.00
Going to movies – $10.00
Bottle of water – $1.00
Can of coke – $1.00
Coffee – $3.00
Cake – $7.00

Getting Around

MTR to central – $1.60
MTR (student discount) – 0.80c
Taxi from night out – 15.00 (split between 5 people, $3)
Bus to and from airport – $3.50
Ferry to islands – $3.50

Drinking/Going Out

Bottle of Beer at Supermarket – $2.00
Bottle of Beer at 7/11 – $2.50
Bottle of Beer at bar – $10.00
Spirit at bar – $12.00
Entry to the races – $3.00
Entry to average bar/club – Free – $15.00
Entry to top nightclub – $50.00 (not a typo!)
Night at karaoke – $12.00
Entry to all you can drink bar (guys) – $30.00
Entry to all you can drink bar (girls) – Free

Travel

Return Flights to Bne – Hong Kong $1000.00
Return flight to nearby Philippines $200-300
Return train to Shanghai – $200.00
5 day trip to Vietnam – $600.00
Weekend in Macau – $200.00

To give perspective, I live in a very wealthy suburb (recent houses went for around AUD$500million which means really expensive shops and supermarkets) and have lived a fairly spendthrift lifestyle at times – but have spent no more than $7000-8000 total (including flights). Other friends have spent closer to $9-10k, and have done a little more travel.

As you can see, it’s so much cheaper to live; but if you want something western, you’ll have to pay for it. I know the local students are probably living on closer to AUD$10-$15.00 a day. I think its fine if you’re feeling homesick or want to relax with something from home to spend a bit more. For example, I love my coffee, like to eat really well and try to be out and about when I’m not at uni. So you might want to budget $20-30ish per day for safety.

The trick is to avoid living like western tourist and to learn to live like a local.

2. The Future

You only have to flick through a Time magazine to conclude that China, India and the ASEAN (South-East-Asia-Nations) are going to be the absolute future of the world. There is not doubt that your ability to navigate Asian customs and business will be a powerful tool for your career success. As is your ability to find common ground, rapport and friendship with someone who won’t share the same values, language and interests as you.

3. The culture

I won’t go over already covered ground, but the ability to explore cultures and experiences that, in some cases have existed continuously for thousands of years is an amazing prospect. You could look at Roman ruins, or you could go to a hindu temple that has been used every day since the fall of the Roman Empire. Fight tourists in the French Rivera or be the only person on a tropical island. Eat pizza in Florence or Ostrich, fish skin and abalone in Shanghai. Give it a go!

ps. Ostrich tastes kind of gamey.  More like venison, rather than chicken.

4. The weather

It’s winter in HK. Its 20 degrees outside, not a cloud in the sky.

Risks of Asia

1. Feeling Lost

No doubt that the unfamiliar will frustrate you. Big cities can make you feel lonely and isolated. Big changes in language and processes can leave you wondering what the hell is going on. Food may be unappetizing and badly cooked. Inflexible bureaucracy and hierarchy can make you angry. You’ll find your resilience being stretched. These will be common wherever you go, but if you’re the type of person who doesn’t adapt to ambiguity and change, Asia might not be for you.

2. Health

A constant onslaught of bad food, smog, crowds of people, bad sleep and sometimes-unsanitary conditions are going to assault your immune system. You’re going to get sick. Really sick. Factor it in. Come to peace with it.

Feel free to ask me more questions, I’d be happy to offer help.

My friend Lorencio has put together a fantastic site which really helped me adapt to Hong Kong and has expanded costings – http://www.newtohongkong.info/

Hope that helps with sharing my feelings and experiences. No doubt, with one chance to go on exchange, you want to make the most of it. So wherever your heart is set; don’t hold back in going for it.