Ten acres of horribly charred land hollowed out and filled with garbage from the nearby city. Rotting food, burning plastic, rancid excretions, scavenging crows, all under the heat of the scorching sun burning above. The surrounding thatched roof huts that house the countless families living amidst this garbage begin so close to the edges of the landfill that the boundary between the two seems indistinguishable. The contingent fish processing and packaging factory emits an incessant odor of rotting fish that blankets much of the surrounding land. This was my first sight of the Indian village in which I would spend a month teaching English and mathematics in a school for underprivileged children.
Two years have passed since my trip to the Nirvana School. What began as a thinly veiled attempt to stand out in the college admissions process affected me in ways I hadn’t imagined possible. Since then, I have passed countless milestones, including my freshman year of college where I’ve truly learned what it means to balance, where I’ve made life-long friends and where I’ve understood more about myself than in my entire high school career. With a year at Georgetown behind me, I feel the need to remind myself of the children 8,000 miles away.
Soon enough, I began to build relationships with each of the children at the school. I learned their stories, understood their lifestyles, and within a week, the children began to bring me candy on a daily basis. On my last day there, one girl I had grown particularly close to offered me the ring on her finger. The sights and smells of the village disappeared completely and only the children remained. I walked into the school wanting to give the kids something, but ended up leaving with much more than I could have ever given them. They taught me, rather than the other way around. Today, that school seems more than a world away.
In the hustle and bustle that is Georgetown, it becomes easy to get caught up in the fast-moving current of life, school and activities. By no means is this a bad thing. In fact, it is one of the main reasons we come here: to get swept up, to try new things, to make new friends and to completely immerse ourselves in a path of self-discovery. I hope to emerge on the other side with a better, still unknown, understanding.
I told myself in September that I prefer the stress of being too busy to the stress of not being busy enough, and this is still true. However, in the process of trying to dive right into the deep end of college, I did not realize that even my most ingrained notions would be tested. Surrounded by new people with experiences different from my own and new situations I have never encountered, I am changing in ways that I am unable to fully specify . It is all at once exciting and scary. There is no way of telling if I am moving forward or backward, if I am right or wrong. In the world we live in, nothing is so black and white.
My life is quickly becoming more multifaceted than ever. They say that these years will be among the best in our lives as we’ll break through our comfort zones, but I think we have to make a conscious effort to remember where we come from and what has been important to us for the past 18 years. Life is moving fast, but that does not mean we can’t stop once in a while and take moments to reflect. With the last year in mind, it is easy to start forgetting what I saw and learned in India, but it would be nothing short of a crime to do so. It would mean losing a part of me that I hold dear, and while I do not want to allow this to happen, I am afraid it might if I don’t make an effort to stop it.
Anushka Kannan is a rising sophomore in the McDonough School of Business. Preserving the Past appears every other Friday at thehoya.com.
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