Hi! My name is Lea and I did voluntary service in an Indian government school near Mysore, for the past 9 months, while living with an Indian host family.
What did I know about India before I came here? Barely anything! I knew India was a huge country where people eat a lot of spicy food and rice. I knew a little of its history from school and that India is said to be a country of colours and diversity.
After more than 9 months in India I can tell you one thing – if you ever think you have seen everything in India, you’re wrong! India is the most amazing, beautiful and crazy country at the same time, as it is confusing, extremely diverse and different in each and every city and region. Not one day went by in which I did not see, smell, taste or experience something new.
The first weeks in my school were very challenging. I did not know the local language Kannada and only 2 out of the 6 teachers, including our Headmaster, spoke English. Communication with the teachers was difficult in the beginning and to speak to the students was even harder. Soon I picked up a few Kannada phrases and with a mix of Kannada, English and signs, I started to teach English.
Whenever I had no class, I helped Jayashanthi, one of the teachers, to teach English and Maths for the smallest of our students. Since the 1st -3rd standards were always combined, she was more than thankful for the help. We became a good team and with her help and some Kannada knowledge, I was even able to teach simple Maths!
I can say I learned a lot from the teachers and students during my volunteering service. Language practice was mainly a two-way learning process and I learned a lot about Indian school life, culture and even religion in school.
Food is also a huge topic in India I learned a lot about, in school. Daily, I had lunch together with the other teachers and it is common to share food in India. I got the chance to try many new dishes and learned some recipes from the teachers. By the way, you normally don’t ask someone how they are in India – you would rather ask them if they have already eaten!
I already miss going to school – which I never expected to say – and to be around the teachers and students. But I can say I had a great time and an even greater experience during my volunteering service. I totally recommend to go abroad for a longer time if you want to learn a lot about a foreign culture, religion, tradition, language, food and last but not least, about yourself!