Cammie's Letter Studying Abroad

Dear Puranik Foundation,

Thank you for the most wonderful opportunity to travel Pune, India last month with the Puranik foundation!

Traveling to Pune allowed me to get a better idea of what I am passionate about. Before my trip, I never considered myself exploring teaching professionally. However, after meeting and spending a week with the wonderful Vision International children, I have realized that a career in education abroad, maybe something I am interested in. Every student that I met was warm, intelligent, and kind. Interacting with and seeing the glow on these students' faces every day made me want to stay in Pune forever!

Being in India also made me reconsider how I use the word ‘normal’. The definition of the word normal is “the usual, average, or typical state or condition”. During my travel, oftentimes I found that my peers and I would use 'normal' to differentiate American and Indian perspectives. (Of course, the American way was the normal way.) “Normal food, normal bathrooms, normal showers”, etc. The preconceptions we made about traditional Indian customs and ways of life had been so ignorant--in the purest sense. We did not know and did not know that we did not know.

After my trip, I realized there is no such thing as one single ‘normal’. While Western bathrooms and over-processed foods may be our normal, for Indians, spicy food and squat toilets are their normal. Every country, culture, and person have their own definition of what norms look like in their own lives. My normal is not the right or wrong way, it is just one way of many ways.

Moving forward, Puranik Foundation has provided me with an additional world view, and I am forever grateful for it. I now better understand why Mark Twain said, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness". It is impossible to connect with the people of a land and leave unchanged.

In closing, unfortunately, my trip to Pune was not completely upbeat and fun. The most unpleasant part of my trip to Pune was when I was leaving. I thought saying my goodbyes and getting on the bus was hard enough. But driving away and waving at all the beautiful children outside my bus window, knowing that I would not see them again for a long time, was nearly unbearable for me.

I have returned to my home in Houston with new eyes. I have shared my 10 days with friends and family many times but it’s impossible to adequately share the energy, colors, smells, and most of all the people of Pune, India. I just tell everyone that they have to go and experience it for themselves.

Thank-you, Puranik Foundation!

Cammie Lemons
Summer 2019