Posts Tagged ‘Study Abroad’

My favorite -ollywood starts with a “B”

January 25, 2011

About a week ago, I went online and looked at a list of popular American songs for the first time since coming to India in July. Before leaving, my musical taste was undoubtedly pop-centric, with about 25 songs from July’s Top 40 among my favorites. So it was with mild shock that I realized I hadn’t heard a single song on January’s list. I know it’s in the nature of such lists to change often, but seriously, not one song?

I guess Bollywood has filled the void for me pretty well.

Since the New Year, I’ve dedicated myself to finding the Bollywood songs that I’d been hearing on the radio and humming to myself for months. Whereas in December just three Bollywood songs had a home in my iTunes library, over ten times as many have now joined them. And I haven’t even tapped into my host brother’s vast collection (yet).

Note that I refer to the music that populates the airwaves here as Bollywood music rather than Hindi music. The reason for this is twofold. “Bollywood” normally refers to the Mumbai-based Hindi film industry, but its movies are known worldwide for their heavily choreographed song and dance numbers. Unlike in America, the music and film industries of Bollywood are very closely intertwined. The majority of songs you’ll hear in India come from its movies – in fact, I don’t think I’ve heard a song that hasn’t.

And after listening to songs like I Hate Love Storys (sic), is it really fair to call these Hindi songs? Like their accompanying Bollywood scripts, an increasing number of songs have at least some English. In most cases, use of English is sparse – with only repeated phrases like “People on the floor” or “Oh girl, you’re mine” – but some songs are nearly half English. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to label these Hinglish songs. Then again, that wouldn’t be fair to the many songs still written in pure Hindi.

But for me, even the pure Hindi songs are no longer the garbled strings of sounds they once were.

Since the end of December, I’ve been taking private Hindi classes five times a week, and my rate of learning has skyrocketed. I can now read almost every character in the alphabet, and I’m able to write a one-paragraph self-introduction in Devanagari script. Speaking Hindi makes bargaining with rickshaw drivers a lot easier, and I keep shocking my Indian friends by tossing new Hindi words into our conversations.

But the real rewards of learning Hindi come in understanding the words that are spoken. Bollywood songs have truly been instrumental in my language learning process. Frequent are the instances when I’ll recognize a word, pull out my pocket dictionary, and see if I’ve guessed its meaning correctly. I guess you could say I read the dictionary for fun.

In full disclosure, I’ve since added eight of those Top 40 American songs.

But I have to admit, Bollywood music is the far more educational form of fun.


P.S. Here’s a sampling of Bollywood music for your enjoyment.

A. Pee Loon
B. Anjaana Anjaani Ki Kahani
C. Aal Izz Well
D. Udd Udd Dabangg
E. Sheila Ki Jawani

Bonus question: To which of the above songs did I perform a Bollywood dance in front of 100 people at a RYLA camp in November? The first person to answer correctly gets a prize(!) and a detailed explanation of the performance in context.


Clarifications about my college life

September 10, 2010

My last blog entry caused a little more outcry with a couple people than I think was necessary, so I thought I’d clarify something.

I’m not unhappy at Hislop College.

Of course it’s impossible for me to make assumptions about all schools in India – I’ve spent 99 percent of my time in two cities. I don’t yet know enough about all the schools in India, all the schools in Maharashtra, or all the schools in Nagpur.

My secondhand knowledge of Indian schools exceeds my firsthand knowledge. Firsthand, I’ve only seen Hislop College, the school where the Independence Day celebration was held, and the school where we have our tabla and dance classes. Other Rotary students and area kids have told me about the schools in Nagpur, but I’ve only read books that talk about schools elsewhere in India.

Schools vary everywhere, though. Anyone from Champaign-Urbana could tell you there’s contrast between my old high school and Urbana’s other high school. Michigan Tech is a much different college than Massuchusetts Institute of Technology. I’d appreciate the feedback of anyone who knows more about schools in India – and how they vary.

Given what I know, then, I feel I may have misled people in two ways: 1) as far as I know, Hislop College is not actually that different from other schools in India, and 2) I do not feel uncomfortable there.

True, there’s no air-conditioning and no Powerpoint presentations. At most Indian schools, teachers are more likely to be truant than in America. Pens – rather than pencils – are the norm, as are notebooks with covers that seem to be chosen by American third-graders.

But the teachers aren’t necessarily “bad”. They can be quite passionate about what they say. Whereas some teachers get to class five minutes late and leave ten minutes early, our sociology teacher kept us ten minutes after class on Thursday to talk about the difference in stigmas between graduating from arts, commerce and science colleges in India.

In English, mostly.

The people aren’t all bad, either. I’ve become good friends with many of the kids who always go to class – the people who aren’t just interested in me because I’m American. In the hallways, the others don’t give me trouble, just attention, and even that’s beginning to wane as I become a more familiar face. Since I’m a regular in the classroom, it’s become a comfortable place.

As for now, I’ve got a three-day weekend to deal with. More on that later.


Facebook Facebook Twitter Retweet Delicious Delicious Stumbleupon Stumbleupon Digg Digg Reddit Reddit

My first day of college! …or was it?

August 28, 2010

I think today was my first day of school. I’m not sure. Was today my first day of school?

I should have known today would have been like it was. After all, the only reason I didn’t miss yesterday’s orientation was because my friend Jacob told me via Facebook message the day before. Jacob only knew because his host sister’s friend told him. I guess that’s how word gets around here.

Yesterday after orientation, Jacob turned to me and asked, “Wait, are we supposed to come to class tomorrow?” I could only shrug my shoulders.

You tell me if we should have come to class today.

This morning, I set my alarm for 8, but I awoke a few minutes earlier – perhaps I was eager to start. No one else in the house was awake. After a shower and some breakfast, I trotted out the door with my raincoat and my backpack, ready to fill my head with sociology, political science, economics, English and Hindi.

The problem was, the weather and roads weren’t cooperating, so Saket and I arrived at the college about ten minutes after the 9:06 start of my first class.

Were this to have happened at Uni, it would have caused me considerable distress. For some reason though, I felt unusually at ease at Hislop. The campus seemed far, far too quiet for a school with several hundred students.

Saket and I walked around, looking for the room and the building where my classes would be. We asked a man where the arts building was, and he pointed us in its direction. So that’s where we went.

– The good news: It was indeed the arts building.
– The bad news: It was empty, save for three or four students walking around, just as confused and disoriented as us.

So we continued our search, heading back to the main building, crossing the eerily quiet courtyard between. Deciding it would be best to ensure we were looking for the right room, we asked someone to help us find the timetable like the one I’d copied from yesterday. We were pointed down the hallway towards a large board.

– The good news: About a dozen schedules were posted on the three bulletin boards.
– The bad news: Not one of them applied to me.

As we walked around the campus in search of anything that could help us, we passed empty classroom after empty classroom. Occasionally we’d find small clusters of friends and teachers, but we only found two classrooms populated by both teachers and students. Having nothing to do, we decided to go home and try again Monday.

That’s when Saket and I found Jacob. Jacob, an exchange student from Washington, is also in my class at Hislop.

(I feel kind of bad each time someone asks him where he’s from. When he says he’s from Washington, the other will add “D.C.?” Jacob then has to explain “No, Washington STATE in the Northwest” and the other will look down, sad they haven’t met an American from the nation’s capital.)

With Jacob’s help, I found the classroom. It was about 9:40, near the end of English class. We looked inside.

– The good news: I had finally found the classroom.
– The bad news: It was empty.

Jacob had woken up at 6:30 to sit in an empty classroom for two hours.

Our political science class consisted of the teacher, two commerce students, Jacob and me introducing ourselves. It lasted about five minutes. The room seated about 50. And none of the others are taking political science.

That said, the morning wasn’t completely wasted. I met two teachers and three students. I explained to a student that the WWE isn’t a college sport in the USA. Jacob and I became a lot more familiar with the campus, to say the least.

Can I now say I’ve spent a day as a college student? As I expected, I went to school today and I learned something. It just wasn’t the kind of college or learning I’m used to.

Hopefully, class will start on Monday.


Facebook Facebook Twitter Retweet Delicious Delicious Stumbleupon Stumbleupon Digg Digg Reddit Reddit

Thank you

July 19, 2010

This is for all of you. If you feel snubbed, it’s entirely my fault.

Thank you for reading this.

Thank you everyone who’s ever commented or rated one of my posts.

Thank you to the eight of you subscribed to this blog.

Thank you Bill Volk for being the first person to sit down and talk with me about Rotary.

Thank you Mr. Stone and Ethan Stone for telling me about youth exchange and making me excited to go on one.

Thank you Mr. Krull, Ms. Kim and Mr. Vaughn for teaching me about India in 6th, 8th, and 9th grade, respectively.

Thank you Mr. Porreca for giving me my first audience to write to.

Thank you Lisa Micele for preparing me for the four years after this one.

Thank you Mr. Rayburn for giving me the idea to write a blog about India in Nonfiction Writing.

Thank you Abhilasha Malhotra and Shawn Bird for teaching me about India and Rotary, respectively, despite the fact I’ve never met either of you in person.

Thank you Beth Scheid for Culture Shock and for telling me and my mom what to expect in India.

Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Shah, Bill Johnson, Ananth Nann, Ben Zehr, Fred Held, some Facebook friends of my mom, and about a bajillion other people for talking with me about India.

Thank you Tom Redington for everything you’ve taught me and everything you’ve done for the outbounds and District 6490.

Thank you Jagdish Khatri for being the first person from 3030 to reach out to me.

Thank you Rotary and everyone involved with it for making this trip possible.

Thank you Gibson Wirth for teaching me about cricket.

Thank you Jack Gillette for our “psychic” connections.

Thank you Brittany Scheid for giving me the idea to take a gap year, even though I never told you that until now.

Thank you Katherine Allen for meeting me at the Savoy 16 on the eve of two of my biggest milestones the last two months.

Thank you Andrew LaPointe for epitomizing kindness.

Thank you Daniel Wilson for your input on this blog’s color scheme and letting me in your house unannounced yesterday.

Thank you Jared Doyle for the car rides and sticking with me for five years.

Thank you Lisa Boyce, Jasper Maniates-Selvin, Stephanie Overmier, Tianna Pittenger, Mr. Sutton, US History and everyone else for baseballbaseballbaseball, which I will be taking to India.

Thank you Eric Chen, Daniel Cheng, Jefferson Fu, John Hadley, Mohammad Jaber, Adam Joseph, Andrew LaPointe, Robbie McMillen, Stephanie Overmier, Tianna Pittenger, and John Vaughen for signing the baseball which I will be taking to India.

Thank you Greg Atherton, Eric Chen, Danny Ge, Jefferson Fu, John Hadley, Jie Han, Mohammad Jaber, Kevin Kuo, Allen Luo, Sid Madhubalan, Robbie McMillen, Alex Mestre, Ananth Nann, Chris Nguyen, Edo Roth, Johnny Shapley, John Vaughen, Simeon Washington, Richard Wang, Yulun Wu, Mike Zhivov and Mr. Bergandine for all the memories from tennis, which I will be taking to India.

Thank you Eric Chen, Mohammad Jaber, and John Vaughen, for being a receptive audience with both tennis and this blog, and for being three of the greatest friends I have.

Thank you Claire Billingsley, Maria Gao, Hadley Hauser and Tianna Pittenger for taking the same post- or mid-Uni leap of faith that I am.

Thank you Wesley Wiltgen, John Hurst and Jerryl Banait for talking with me for several hours about India, Nagpur, and your years halfway across the world from home.

Thank you Joe Chang for showing me good people live all over the world.

Thank you James Claxon for Fat Princess: Fistful of Cake and the memories from Pontiac, Chicago and Grand Rapids.

Thank you Saurin Shah for walking around the U of I with me the other day, and showing me exactly what it means to be adaptable.

Thank you Jefferson Fu for the curry stereotypes, but mostly for teaching me that underclassmen can be cool people too. LI

Thank you Stephanie Overmier for all the GChat conversations, Cracked, making me a Blackhawks fan, and teaching me to teach.

Thank you Jason He for the LOLLERSKATES, LMAOBERRIES, and showing me how the internet can bring people together. So far, yet so close.

Thank you Daniel Cheng for the frisbee games, the bike rides, the world-class one-liners on Buzz, and your exceptionally accurate moral compass.

Thank you Tianna Pittenger, who I owe everything in my transformation into an outgoing, social person. b 😀 d

Thank you my three little cousins for making me smile and laugh. I’ll teach you cricket when I get back! Enjoy your time now, because we all grow up faster than we’d like.

Thank you Aunt Julie and Uncle Larry for the graduation party with the Indian food and the hospitality you always provided for me.

Thank you in advance to my host family for taking me in and giving me the chance to live An Indian Year.

Thank you Grandma for teaching me that being nice to people gets them to be nice back to you. Thanks for all the times you’ve been there for me over the years – this blog is for you.

Thank you Mom, for the last 22 years, bringing me into this world, and having the courage to let me go. You, more than anyone else reading this, know what I mean when I say that.

You all can learn a lot from each other. I learned a lot from you.



Facebook Facebook Twitter Retweet Delicious Delicious Stumbleupon Stumbleupon Digg Digg Reddit Reddit

Why to be a Rotary Youth Exchange student

July 14, 2010

Nine months ago, I put on my best clothes, got in the car, and went to the Illinois Terminal in downtown Champaign to interview for Rotary Youth Exchange with a nervous stomach and a cynical mind.

The word “Rotary” had a different ethos to me last October. I’d heard how youth exchange changed people’s lives, and I was aware the idea was to send 16-18 year olds to another country for a year, but Rotary was just another option, lost in the myriad of colleges I was considering at the time. Why put off college, anyway? What need was there to spend an entire year in another country? I knew it would be an interesting year, but would it be worth it?

I spent last weekend with hundreds of other exchange students, and I can now wholeheartedly tell you this:

Rotary Youth Exchange is worth it.

I could make your eyes glaze over by recounting the events of the weekend. I could retell the stories I was told, reteach the lessons I was taught, and regurgitate the information I digested.

Instead, I’d prefer to tell you about the people I’ve met through Rotary. If I learned anything this weekend, it’s that amazing people, whatever their difference, exist everywhere. Here’s a far from complete list of the people who I spent time with.

-Jerryl Banait, an inbound from Nagpur, one of the most likable people I’ve met and someone who makes me excited to be spending a year in his hometown.

-Wesley Wiltgen, a rebound who spent about four hours alone just walking and talking with me about his year in Ankleshwar, India, one-on-one.

-John Hurst, another rebound who’s been to Nagpur and eased my fears of everything in India from shopping to stomachaches.

-Saurin Shah, an outbound headed to Brazil who’s shown incredible adaptability and stayed chill despite the fact his host country has changed twice in two weeks.

-James Claxon, an outbound who will be taking The Game with him to Germany in spite of my protests.

-Joe Chang, an inbound from Taiwan whom I wish I’d had many more than seven days to hang out with over the last four months.

I’m just sad the world isn’t populated by 6.8 billion people like those I met through Rotary.

But there are people like those in Rotary all over the world. With Rotary, you’re not alone. After I spent my first meal in the dining hall alone Thursday night, I rarely walked the campus alone. I had about a dozen best friends.

The Rotary process can be complicated at times. Submitting the initial application is a pain. Getting in touch with someone for the first time can be a challenge. Depending on the country you’re assigned, the paperwork for getting a visa and plane tickets can make you and your parents want to pull your hair out.

But what other program pays for your food, schooling and housing for a year? You will have to pay for the plane ticket, insurance, gifts, medical fees and any extra trips you want to take in your country. But Rotary actually gives you an allowance equivalent to about $50 a month, depending where you go. What other program does that?

But that’s not why you should be a Rotary Youth Exchange student.

Do it because of the people you’ll meet.

You won’t regret your decision.


Facebook Facebook Twitter Retweet Delicious Delicious Stumbleupon Stumbleupon Digg Digg Reddit Reddit