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SWE Overseas: A Reflection

SWE Overseas returned safely to America over a week ago, and we are now spread across the country settling in to our summer jobs or classes. India was the adventure of a lifetime, and I know I’ll remember it for a long time.

From the first day in Mumbai our trip was exciting, when other tourists took more pictures of us than the Gate of India because our fair skin was so rare.

I have never felt more welcomed than I did at Bharat’s Children’s Academy in Walchandnagar on that first day when all the students lined up for us and clapped us in. I learned so much from those students and I loved seeing them develop their problem solving skills. I still remember that first day when a student held out her penny boat and asked me, “Val ma’am, will this work?” I replied “I have no idea, let’s test it!” She was so astounded that there was not just one correct answer, and her curiosity blossomed more each day after that. The students were so eager to learn from us and participate in the activities. Their favorites were the zipline challenge because it was competitive, and the LEGO Mindstorms because they had not had any experience at all with robots yet.

They were eager to teach us, too. I learned bits of three different languages (I taught a bit of Spanish in return) and all about their interests and hobbies. They always shared their lunch with us while I played Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” per their request on my phone. I sang our national anthem for them and they sang theirs for me.

The teachers were so generous, too. I loved our poor attempt to create Rangoli with them and our struggle to understand the rules of Cricket. When they drew Mehndi for us they used the natural kind and mixed it with bottled water to make sure none of us had any bad reactions to it, which was unbelievably considerate. On the first day I made the mistake of mentioning that I play the flute, and they brought me a flute to play for them! I do not think I am alone in saying that the camp at BCA was one of the highlights of my life, and I am so glad that I had the opportunity to help out.

Touring northern India was also fantastic, even though Indian driving terrified us all just a little bit. To break up long drives we always stopped to see a little bit of the non-tourist side of India, like a farmer with an ox turning a water wheel, or a potter making clay. I loved seeing the city palaces, forts, and temples. I’m partial to lakes so the boat tour on the City of Lakes was one of my favorites, and I’m still intrigued by the floating palaces. I really enjoyed learning so much about Jainism, Sikhism, Hinduism and Islam from visiting all of the places of worship. The pink city of Jaipur will be remembered by the sandstorm we endured, the snake charmer we saw outside the palace, and of course riding elephants up Amer Fort which is again a once in a lifetime experience. The Taj Mahal was breathtaking of course, and naturally we all took about 200 pictures each to remember it by. Our bittersweet final stop in New Delhi was highlighted by Rickshaw rides through narrow streets, which I would highly recommend.

All in all, SWE Overseas had an extremely successful 3rd annual trip to India. I think the camp was very beneficial to all parties, and the 14 of us had a blast touring. I miss it already, but I am so glad that I had this opportunity, and I will cherish the memories. A huge thank you to Walchandnagar Industries, Bharat’s Children’s Academy, the Society of Women Engineers, The University of Michigan College of Engineering, all of our generous sponsors, and of course Kirtana and Katie for doing a flawless job putting all of this together.

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