Wayland Student Press Network Interview

Sophia Alfaro - India


January 8, 2019

My high school’s journalism class is writing articles on 2018 alum who have
opted to go abroad after high school instead of college in the states. Here
are my responses to their questions.

Where did you go?

Pune, Maharashtra, India

Why did you pick that place?

I’m here with a program that offers four countries to spend 7 months in. My
choices were Senegal, Brazil, India, and Ecuador. Out of all of these,
India appealed to me the most. It’s almost as if I felt called to put it as
my top country choice. After confirming that I would be in India, I was
then given the option of living in Pune, Maharashtra or Hyderabad,
Telangana, and I chose Pune because I know a few families in Wayland that
are actually from here. It brought me a sense of comfort.

What are you doing there?

I am working at a low-income semi-private school 15 minutes away from where
I am staying. I come in 6 times a week to teach, coach soccer to girls, and
work on my community project.

Tell me a little bit about the atmosphere there?

India is chaotic. There’s no way around it. With a population so grand, how
could it not be? Likewise, India is beautiful and structured in a way only
it knows how to be. At first, it may be hard to see this. It definitely
takes time to understand and resonate with. Once you get it, however;
things begin falling into place. Everything has an answer, even if it’s a
more questionable one.

The people here are kind. They want to help the doe-eyed and afraid. I’ve
made more friends taking the public transportation these last few months
than I ever have back home in the same situation. They want to feed those
they care about, and always make sure that you’ve had dinner.

The other day I saw a quote that read, “Being Indian isn’t about blood.
It’s about culture.”

This hit me because 4 out of 5 locals will ask me if I’m Indian. When I say
I’m from the U.S. they are taken aback, questioning my validity, saying
“you’re not Indian?!” Being here and seeing this strong affluence of
culture has made me appreciate everything life has to offer and give, and
proud to be in the country that I am.

How difficult was it to adjust to there?

Not difficult at all. I felt at home almost immediately. I believe this is
because of my background; I have a Dominican mother who is in love with
travelling. Growing up, we would take trips to the Dominican Republic,
which is incredibly similar to India environmentally. The climate,
occasional men and women arguing on the sides of the road, and commotion of
everything felt natural to me.

On the other hand, being away from home and becoming one with my
surroundings aligned itself because it’s the only thing to do when signing
yourself up for something like this. Fighting the growth and adjustments
that I’m making would defeat the purpose of me being here.

What was your favorite part of this place? Why?

So far my favorite part is my community (45 minutes maximum from where I
stay, including the school which I work at, my friends’ houses, the
outdoors near me, and a few restaurants). It’s the life of my stay here,
and brings me a much-needed joy and humility.

Least favorite?

I’ve only ever gotten stressed and annoyed with India once or twice, and to
be fair, it was after hours of travel and being so tired that I was unable
to have any patience for my surroundings.

It was over transportation and being spoken to in a language I can barely
understand. I was angry with everything and everyone, and when I calmed
down, I was more disappointed with myself more than anything else.

What does a student have to gain from taking a year off?

Confidence, a better sense of themselves, what they see for their futures,
and appreciation.

What have you learned so far?

What was aforementioned.

I have become confident in using my voice, and advocating for myself. I
have also grown enough to be able to walk up to strangers and ask them
questions or for help, because I have been forced to do so during my time
abroad.

Through becoming confident with my voice I have learned more about myself
such as what works for me and what doesn’t, as well as instilling the fact
that I need to support and love myself for my better being. This has also
helped me learn and see what I would like to be doing in the future. I have
been given a preview of what my life can be like, and how I would prefer
for it to go.

Have you spent a lot of time abroad?

This is the longest I have been outside of the U.S. I am in my fourth month
of an eight month experience.

I have been in India for four months now, and have three more to go.

Why did you choose to study abroad the first semester?

I’m on a gap year, but have actually begun online courses during my time
here. I chose to begin my college education while away so that I can finish
my higher education quicker to be able to enjoy my time traveling at 18 and
after.

At first did you wish you were starting college off normally?

No. College will always be there. My enrollment would be taken care of.
What I’m doing now; however, is only able to happen during this time of my
life for me.

Has the opinion changed?

No, because of the same as above. My college is still there, and I will
have time in the fall to enjoy everything it has to offer.

How do you think you have been changed or affected by being abroad?

I have relaxed a bit more, and have begun to be able to control my anxiety.
I still hold a “I want to do it all, right now,” persona, but I definitely
have realized I don’t have to stress myself over things that I can take in
slowly or with time.

I also now enjoy the little things in life more, such as taking time to
tend to yourself, a conversation with a good friend, or stopping to drink
hot chai, in turn slowing everything down.

I’m extremely grateful and proud of myself for the decision that I made to
do what I am doing now. This is a priceless experience that I am adding to
my life, and one that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Sophia Alfaro