My name is Maximilian Schloesinger and in the following article, I want to speak about my voluntary service in India, which was hosted by the NGO FSL-India. I was prepared and sent to India by the German NGO IJGD. The duration of my service was 12 months, from September 2017 till August 2018. Hence, I participated in a LTV (Long Term Volunteer) program.
I want to speak about my project first. I worked at the Government Higher Primary School Gopadi East, which is located in a small village near Kundapura. The school is comparatively small and consists of 52 children and 4 teachers, excluding the headmistress. The teachers are all female, and were very friendly. Three of them speak basic English and I was able to communicate with them on most matters, which was nice.
In the last 11 months, I tried to teach English to the classes IV-VII. This was a challenging and yet, rewarding experience. Challenging because I had to cope with language barriers and a different school system than the one I had been educated in. But rewarding because I mastered most of the challenges, or at least grew on them. To name an example, I didn’t know the level of knowledge of the children in the beginning, and this made it difficult to prepare appropriate periods. But, instead of resigning on this issue, I learned about the students’ level of knowledge within the time. By now I feel confident and able to provide them periods that are appropriate to their level.
The main contents of my lessons were English reading, grammar, vocabularies, speaking, writing and listening. But additionally, I did drawing lessons, dance sessions and a whole lot of games.
In this paragraph, I will tell you about my host family. I will not tell the name to not create any sort of prejudice towards the family, neither good nor bad.
I lived in a house in a rural area that was surrounded by rice paddies and nice neighbors. It was 2 kilometres’ walk to the beach. It was very romantic and reminded me a lot of Robinson Crusoe’s lonely island, since it was not so crowded. I lived among many people, a younger host sister and host brother, an Indian host mother and host father, a cousin of my host mother, 1-3 different Indian paying guests and my good friend and roommate Henri, who is also A German volunteer. Since a month, one more German volunteer named Nick has joined us.
Well, the amount of people living in this house at the same time might sound not so good, but it was a great experience, though. In Germany, I never had so much life and activity below one roof. Though tiring and annoying sometimes, it never got boring and I seldom felt lonely. And if so, I just went to the living room or spoke to my German volunteers. I feel a strong connection to Henri, but I also feel integrated into the life of the host family. Maybe not on the status of a real family member, but those were not my expectations. I am accepted and able to live my life freely there, either in the regard of cooking my own food, or walking around in boxer shorts.
We, fortunately, had lots of holidays, which I spent travelling. I want to talk about these now.
India is a country of great diversity, this is what I learned on my travels. Every 100 or 200 kilometres, the culture and sometimes, even the language changes. These changes can be minor or major, depending on how far you travel. For example, whereas in Karnataka most of the people speak Kannada, 300 kilometres north in Goa, the people will speak Konkani. The food also changes – in South India, you mostly eat rice and sambar, and in North India, one might find lots of dal and flat bread (rotis). I have seen lots of nice places and strengthened the bond with my friends on these journeys. To name some of them, Mysore, Gokarna, Bijapur, Manali, Dharamshala. There is lots of time for journeys, and as India is quite cheap for a westerner, there should also be lots of money for travels. The only thing missing now is your motivation to come here and do it.
To summarise this article, I can say that for me, it paid off to come to India. Whether it is in regard to my personal development, or my further job career, I think India has left its fingerprint on me. I broadened my horizon towards culture and history, and I am more interested in these topics than I was before. This is due to enough time and incentive given during my voluntary service.
However, it is a challenge, and you might encounter problems. I had to cope with my health during this year, since the climate change and food change had its impact on me and my immunity system. It is a different country, with lots of unknown challenges for body, as well as mind. But it was definitely worth coming here, and I would do it again if someone asks me.