January 17, 2014

Culture and Studying in India

One week ago, I arrived in India for the first time as part of the second semester of the Weatherhead Global MBA program. I flew to Kolkata (Calcutta) from Hong Kong, where I spent most of my break between semesters. Although I tried to mentally prepare myself for this journey months beforehand and accompanied several students from our Chinese cohort on the flight, I still felt overwhelmed by the intensity of the place as soon as I stepped off the plane. While China can feel extremely bustling and intimidating at times, India takes it to an entirely new level.

Global MBA Students Dancing During Punjabi Cultural Festival
We landed in the middle of the night and spent a few hours at a nice guesthouse arranged by XLRI, our host university, before catching a train around daybreak to Jamshedpur, the small city in Jharkand state where we would spend the next few months of our studies. India’s rail system is not as newly-constructed as China’s, and there seemed considerably fewer obvious foreigners. Nonetheless, this allowed my companions and me to experience more of a real, traditional side of the country, rather than the more internationalized vibe one often encounters in contemporary China. After approximately four hours, we arrived in Jamshedpur without incident and were met by one of our Indian classmates at the train station who then drove us to our new home.

Jamshedpur is very small by Indian standards, so while we do venture out into the city from time to time the majority of our lives are spent on its beautiful, peaceful, and safe campus. The school is wrapping up construction on a huge new complex completely devoted to the Global MBA program into which we should move in a few days. In the meantime, we received accommodation in one of their excellent guesthouses.

A few days after arriving, the group for students from Punjab (a northwestern Indian state) held a Punjabi cultural festival featuring food, music, and dance. After an amazing dinner served by students wearing Punjabi traditional dresses, we watched a series of dance performances, culminating in a big dance party in which everyone could participate. As you can see from the picture accompanying this post, I took them up on their offer.

We are still getting our bearings in the new academic culture, as we have yet to complete our first week of classes. But I am very happy with my experience so far. If you are from the US, India will be quite good at taking you out of your comfort zone, but this is usually a growing experience that leaves you a better person in the end. India is a beautiful, wonderful country that every American should visit at least once in their lifetime.

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As part of the Global MBA program, Christopher King hopes to leverage his past professional experience in Asia into a long-term presence there. He hails from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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