During week four and five I got to visit two cities on the more rural side of southern India known as Pondicherry and Karaikudi. One interesting fact about Pondicherry which was once known as Puducherry would be that thousands of years ago this city was colonized by the French which is why to this day they are known as “French India”, this colonization is the reason as to why this city has many French named streets and snacks such as macaroons in coffee shops as the French influence was big. During my time in Pondicherry I also got to visit many Catholic Churches and spiritualistic places of yoga, as I mentioned previously, southern India is a place that is incredibly tolerable in regard to religion and beliefs which is why it was inspiring to walk in a street with a variety of places of worship with no issue. I also got to visit a rock beach and boat through mangroves.
When we were in Karaikudi I actually got to celebrate my birthday, it was really sad to not spend my 19th birthday with my family, but my study abroad family made sure I felt welcomed and loved at exactly 12:00am my time. During my short time in Karaikudi, my favorite interaction was actually on my birthday when we got to visit a Christian school. As a girl of strong Christian faith, it was an incredible experience to witness that same faith through a different lens and a different language. What was more inspiring would be the idea that although there is huge amounts of tolerance found in southern India, there is still people who can be persecuted by those that wish to infringe their own beliefs onto others. It is because of this that I can assure you I had the best birthday ever as I was able to witness the love and beauty of Christianity and share it with people I never would have thought I could worship with. In Karaikudi I also got to visit an agricultural college with the mission to encourage students to view Agriculture as a key role in reducing poverty. Through this experience I got to speak to college students my age and speak about how similar issues at both India and America can arise such as food insecurity, growth hormones, and loss of income due to economic greed from high suppliers. It was in the encounter with these students that I noted the power in education, so many peoples lives have changed with the simple act of being educated and that is incredible. It was in these moments that I understood what direction I wanted my career to take place in and who I wanted to help.