There comes a time in life when you just feel you need a change. 2 years into my Biomedical Science degree, and I'd gotten cold feet. Sat in a lab, waiting 4 hours for abit of mould to grow on a petri dish, thinking about how I was going to make my dinner with a jar of pasta sauce and an 2 week old potato, I began to yearn for more in my life. I wanted to be inspired. I wanted to travel. I wanted to get a completely different perspective, one where the highlight of the week wasn't the Apprentice and a dominos on a Wednesday night. I was looking for work experience for the summer when the university emailed students about the British Council's opportunities to study abroad.
Perhaps what I noticed first was 'INDIA'. When people talk about Gap 'YAH's they are often the same stories of how they 'found themselves' saving elephants in orphanages or partying on the beach all of which often occurs in Thailand. And honestly it's never appealed to me. The one place on earth I'd been DYING to visit for years was India, and when I saw the combination of travelling and studying I immediately applied. With little hope, I was expecting a rejection but tortured myself with pictures of the host university in Pune.
Ecstatic about my offer of a place on the course I was soon brought back to earth by a minor inconvenience that haunted me for weeks leading up to my departure. As much as I love to travel, I seldom do it alone. I took part in a Gap Medics placement in Tanzania in 2012 and although I was only there for a week, the homesickness ruined my entire trip and I was in tears for the duration. Something about being so far from home filled me with such anxiety. So I was more than hesitant about leaving for 3 weeks completely alone, in fact I was on half a mind to decline the offer and not go.
There aren't enough words to describe how glad I am that I didn't make that decision.
Without a doubt, my Generation UK-India placement is one of (if not) the best trips I have ever taken in my life. I feel I have genuinely made friends and memories that will last me a lifetime. Albeit I do not wish my delayed, 36 hour journey to Pune on my worst enemy.
Arriving and having not slept in 3 days, I was welcomed by the warmest of faces, not only the other students on the course, but by the course supervisor; John Matthews. Perhaps the person I owe the entire success of the trip to. From day 1 I was submerged into the heart of Pune. A full day tour of the city, lectures from the best of IISER Pune faculty, classical music concerts, Bollywood film screenings, Chai tea (unbelievable) at every break, the course was intense and busy, but is there any other way of making the most of such a culturally vast city? By the end of the first week I was fully settled into the academic hub which is Pune, making peace with the non-stop rain and post-Kingfisher hangovers. On the whole I was pleasantly surprised by my home-for-three-weeks-town, luscious surroundings, a super modern campus and wifi in every room (there was havoc in the brief powercuts) I felt instantly at home. My worries of homesickness melted away and I knew that come the end of the trip I wouldn't want to leave. Perhaps what made me feel this way was the other students on the course. Although it was amazing to interact with Indian students, hearing their tips about Indian life and their tours of the city, what was the most reassuring was that most the other UK students on the trip were just like me - loved post-lecture beer towers but also loved getting that bit more out of life too. It was amazing to have experienced such an amazing three weeks with people who felt the same as me; in awe and inspired.
Not only did this trip exceed my expectations in Pune, we had a week in Mumbai included in the course. Perhaps one of the best thing about this trip was the itinery, if you're only going to do India once why not get AS MUCH done as possible, and I really think this course accomplished that. Whilst in Mumbai we covered:
It may sound cliche but this really was a trip of a lifetime, and I cannot recommend the Generation UK-India courses enough. I felt safe, inspired and at home at my amazing host university. Not only that, I really feel I've made friends for life. Seeing another person's perspective, learning about the humble origins of such a vast country and fully emerging myself in its diverse culture, I really feel I have fulfilled my need to see more of the world. I loved my duration in Pune and I know that I will be lured back to travel and visit more of the majestic sub-continent that is India.
Here's the link for the Generation UK-India Homepage for the British Council