Who I Interviewed
I chose to interview someone named Delphine who I first contacted through Instagram about a month ago when I started to look into the possibility of going abroad for a year. I had seen that Delphine was in India for a year of school through one of the programs that I was looking at and thought that she could give me some insight on what I could expect if I chose to go through with it. Delphine is 17 years old, lives in Quebec and is in the equivalent of our grade 11, however as she explained to me, school in Quebec is different from here. She actually completed her secondary school the previous year and is taking a year in between secondary school and university to gain some global perspective. What Delphine is doing isn’t really a job, so she doesn’t have any responsibilities in that regard, however she does attend a local high school in Gujarat which is considered to be a conservative and traditional region of India and is near the border with Pakistan. There are responsibilities that go along with this just as with any high school experience, and Delphine has also taken it upon herself to become somewhat of an ambassador for AFS (the program) as well as for her host country through her social media account. I’m very fortunate to be able to complete this project, because as I write this, Delphine is on a four-hour bus ride texting me the answers to my questions while on her way to go with a group and meditate for ten days without electronics or even talking! This is just another example of the extraordinary things that Delphine is doing.
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Du 17-20 novembre, je suis allée en voyage dans l'état du Rajasthan avec ma famille d'accueil ainsi que la tante, l'oncle et la grand-mère parternels. On est parti en train dans la nuit et avons ensuite exploré la ville de Nathdwara pour son célèbre temple Shrinathji et son grand marché. Nous avons également vu dans la ville voisine de Kankroli et son autre temple. Puis, on est allé dans Chittorgarh, ville reconnue pour son fort historique. Dans les fortifications, nous avons pu voir des tours, des temples, qui ont d'ailleurs été utilisés par les rois et reines dans les années 1400. J'ai vraiment adoré! Le plus difficile a été de nous faire rentrer 8 dans un rickshaw pour toutes les visites! Même si le Rajasthan est le voisin du Nord de mon état (Gujarat), j'ai pu remarquer d'importantes différences culturelles au niveau de l'architecture, de l'habillement et la gastronomie. Ça nous montre la grande diversité de l'Inde, qui varie du Nord au Sud, d'Est en Ouest, de villes en villages. Le plus intriguant, c'est les stations de train, car c'est l'endroit où tous les gens de tous les tissus sociaux, religieux, ethniques se rencontrent!•••• From the 17-20th of November, I went with my host family along with my paternal aunt, uncle and grandmother for trip in the state of Rajasthan. We left by a night-train and then explored the city of Nathdwara with its famous Shrinathji Temple and huge market. After, we headed for the small village of Kankroli to see its other temple. Our last stop was Chittorgarh, a city known for its historical fort. Through the fortifications, there were temples and towers, which were used by the royal kings and queens in 1400 DC. I really enjoyed! The hardest part was to make all the 8 of us fit in one rickshaw! Even if Rajasthan is the neighbor state of Gujarat, I could feel the cultural differences between these two states, such as the food, the architecture and the dressing style. It again proved me that India is a completely diverse nation, from North to South, East to West, cities to villages. The most fascinating part is the train stations, because it's the place where people of all ethnicities, religions and social background meet
(Photo of Delphine from her Instagram account)
Why I chose to Interview Delphine
There are a couple reasons that I chose to interview Delphine. Firstly, because of what she’s doing and how it relates to my passion for travel. Delphine is going completely off the beaten path and is being completely immersed in a culture very different from her own. This is something that I’m striving for, and hope to be able to accomplish either during high school or shortly after. I love the idea of going out of your comfort zone and experiencing something completely foreign, which is evidently something Delphine and I have in common. Secondly, I admire her for her courage to go through with all of this and felt like she would be an exceptional person to interview for this project. I thought that there would most likely not be many people in situations similar to Delphine’s as the interview subjects for this project and that it would be interesting to talk to someone who is doing something completely out of the ordinary. I doubt that there are many if any people at our school who have thought of going abroad for an extended period of time anywhere during or after high school, never mind somewhere as foreign as India. I think that this is a shame because as Delphine will tell us over the course of the interview, it is most definitely an experience worth having.
1. Why are you passionate about what you’re doing?
Because every day I am doing something new, meeting new people, learning new skills or lessons. For example, I am living with an Indian family and going to an Indian school, so daily I interact with people from a completely different background who are having their own opinions and way to do things. By creating deeper relationships with them, instead of criticizing their mindset, I understand them and become more open-minded. Also, since I arrived, I tried so many activities: I danced on Bollywood music, on folkloric songs, and on some classical hymns, I learned one language and am working on learning another one, I got introduced to delicious food items and how to prepare them, I tried to put some mehndi, I attempted rangolis (mehndi and rangolis are both typical Indian arts), I played cricket, I watched some dramatic Bollywood serials, I sang Indian National anthem on Independence Day, one of the many festivals that took place here! Being in India is getting out of your comfort zone, everything is different, but it is the nicest gift ever because I will never have the chance to do all this stuff in any other place in the world! I also feel I am gaining a better global perspective and understanding about world issues.
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J'ai écrit en anglais et en français mais Instagram ne voulait pas me laisser publier parce que c'était trop long… Désolé les francos, ça m'apprendra •••••••••••••••••••••••• This is my Indian family!!! I met them on July 8th and I was welcomed with Genda flowers around my neck and a bindi on my forehead. I have two elder sisters (moti ben) that I love, with whom I become closer everyday. My parents are also very gentle and they helped me so much with my card problems, school, AFS, FRRO, and all my adaptation. Even if their house and their lifestyle are different of what I'm used to in Canada, I quickly felt comfortable. ———- Now, I can eat on the floor, without forks, knives, or spoons: with my right hand only – I frequently go out in a scooter, around the chaotic Indian streets. By the way, the famous Indian honk is used to let people know you are here, not to express anger! It's for security! —————————- Cows in the streets have become a normal thing for me, at every corner, just like every other creature I could encounter —————— Toilet paper? Good one. – I learned to say no, because around 30 times a day, people offer me food! – Bollywood has become a part of my daily life: music in the morning and TV shows at night – I eat paratha for breakfast, chapati for lunch and dinner, and a lot of Chai in between! I started school few days ago and last weekend, I went to an engagement in Indore! I'll keep you updated :)) Hu tamne prem karu chu! #afsindia #afscanada #afseffect #exchangestudent #studyabroad @afs_india @afscanada
(Photo from Delphine’s Instagram of her host family shortly after arriving in India)
2. What obstacles have you faced to get you where you are today?
3. What advice would you pass on to someone interested in what you are doing?
You will be proposed a lot of things and be confronted by any kind of situation, you should always be open about it stay positive! Basically say yes every time you are asked to do something, like a speech, or an activity, attend an event, etc. Also, I would say (very basic) but never give up! Like some days, you will feel discouraged just by very small reasons (the emotions you go through an exchange make every small things way bigger!) maybe like a family member saying you are not able to speak the language properly or still feeling not at ease in your environment, but in this moments, remember why you came here and that you are progressing even if you don’t feel like it. Take hard times as a growing experience, and use them to get closer to your host family and school friends :)) They are the one who can help you easily and we forget it most of the times. For me when I was feeling bad I tended to ask help to my Canadian friends and family, but it’s not going to change anything. An exchange year is happening in the host country only.
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Version française sur @del.phinou ••••••••••••••••••••••• In only two months, India has given me a crazy amount of joy! I discovered a whole new spirituality and a universe where religion is still predominant, which is different than what I’ve experienced in Quebec. In India, everything is around family and community. We call elders auntie, uncle, didi, bhaiya, like if we were all related. Everyone is curious about me, and the moment I look a bit confuse, people immediately ask “what happened??” and that’s the most adorable thing ever. It’s inspiring to see people that much warm and caring with others. India taught me to share more, even the food, and to make it enjoyable. India taught me to be grateful and to help more, because when you see your mom doing all the work in the house alone or your classmates who must study so hard that they cannot do any other activities besides it, it changes your perspective. But the most important thing is that India has given me another family, which whom I create a stronger bound everyday. Now I cherish all the time we spend together. India never gave me problems, I only have new challenges and I love that. #afsindia #afseffect #afscanada #exchangestudent
(Photo from Delphine’s Instagram)
4. Would you be open to further contact from Riverside students and if so, how can someone contact you?
Yeah, of course, that’s why I have this Instagram profile! I wanted to share my experience because people are having a lot of prejudices towards India and I wanted to show them how is life here really like! You can contact me at any time on this profile.
5. What did you learn from your time abroad?
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(Sorry I’m a bit late) Du 10 au 19 octobre, j'ai célébré le festival Navratri! C'est un des festivals principal de l'état dans lequel je vis (le Gujarat) et littéralement dès que je suis débarquée ici en juillet on m'en parlait déjà. Cette fête a un aspect mythologique important: pendant les 10 jours (et 9 nuits), on raconte une bataille entre une déesse, qui finit par remporter, et un démon. Dans mon état, à chaque soir il y a une prière et on danse de la danse folklorique (Garba) en habits traditionnels presque toute la nuit entière (première nuit ça finit vers 1h et dernière nuit à 7h30)! La danse garba se pratique lorsqu'on forme un cercle, donc si on ne connaît pas les pas, on risque de foncer dans les gens…Heureusement que j'avais pris des cours avant, j'étais pas top perdue! Il y a deux types de terrains, terrain local (genre pour petite communauté) ou terrain public (immense et c'est la fête absolue!). J'ai eu la chance d'expérimenter tous ces lieux (+ un voyage à Ahmedabad) et même d'aller danser dans un village une 10e nuit parce qu'ils célébraient encore! Maintenant ça me manque…•••••••••••••••••••••••••From 10th to 19th October, I enjoyed Navratri festival! My state (Gujarat) is well known for its celebration and literally the moment I arrived in July everyone was already talking about it. There's a mythological story behind it: during 10 days (and 9 nights), a battle is happening between a goddess (who will win at the end) an a demon. In my region, there was every night a prayer, followed by folkloric dance (Garba) in traditional outfits, lasting all night long (first night it ended at 1am and last day at 7:30am)! Garba dance is played when we form a circle, so if we don't know the steps, we will bump in others… Luckily I took some classes before, so I was not too confuse! There's two types of ground where we play: local (small, in a community) or public (huge, totally crazy!). I consider myself lucky to have tried these different places (+ a trip to Ahmedabad) an I even went in a village for a 10th night because they were still celebrating there! Now I miss it… #afsindia #afscanada #afseffect #exchangestudent #studyabroad #india #navratri
6. What are some cultural norms/things you do on a daily basis in India that would be considered foreign concepts or unusual in Canada?
It is also frequent here that we go visit friends or relatives without advertising them earlier! It is totally normal here! In fact, people come also visit us at our home, whatever the time (it happens sometimes at 9-10pm!). We always welcome them and treat them as guests. Hospitality is incredible! I don’t know if my Canadian friends will appreciate my surprise visits to their houses…
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That bright smile is due to 7months of diversified, fresh and incredible food! Indian gastronomy has its myths: we all know naan and butter chicken, but these items are only from northern India. In fact, there is a huge variety of breads and in one image, I explain the ones I prefer. Also, India has some unique dairy products, such as paneer and ghee. In Indian restaurants found in Canada, the dishes are mainly originated from the North Indian state: Punjab (spicy & full of flavours, the food is rich in dairy products, sometimes using the tandoori cooking style). Its food is not always vegetarian; that habit is kept by approximately 30% of the Indian population. In my state, Gujarat, that percentage goes up to 60%. To be honest, I looove Gujarati food, because locals tend to add sugar in every salty preparation, which creates something so delicious! To compare, South Indian cuisine is a completely different style, with its own spices, cereals, fishes, etc. Because I haven't been there (yet!), I presented you the most known dishes. It would be impossible to explain all the regional specialities (the number is so huge!), but an interesting tradition got spread all around India: the street food! Of course if you check the hygiene, it can be a very fast and simple way to fill up the stomach! In addition, I couldn't talk about Indian food without mentioning the two famous drinks: chai tea and mango lassi. Something that I was not aware of before coming to India, but clearly, it changed my life: the sweets!!!!! Mostly nut/flour based with dairy products, seasoned with cardamom or saffron, I have to say they are really, really sweet, but amazing! Then, I will tell you a secret: I have been mostly eating with my hands since 7months. Yes, we find spoons, and everything here, but after trying rice and dal with my hands, I really feel it tastes better like that haha! I'm definitely not getting bored by what I am eating here and I learn everyday new cooking techniques in order to prepare everything back! I will not tell you how much kgs I gained… #afsindia #afseffect #exchangestudent #studyabroad #afscanada
(Photo from Delphine’s Instagram showing the variety of foods from India)
What you learned from the interview and how that connects to your passions/interests
I have communicated with Delphine on several occasions before this project, but from the answers she gave me today I’ve gained even more insight on everyday life in India and what it involves to go abroad for an extended period of time. This clearly relates to the interest of travel that I have because she is going out and experiencing this culture completely different from ours. She is doing exactly what I aspire for in my future and it’s inspiring to witness someone actually living it. I have learned a lot from our conversations about what I would have to do in order to go abroad. It’s also interesting to hear her opinions because most of the information online is completely positive and by talking to someone who is actually doing it, I can also gain insight on the struggles of going abroad at a younger age. Our correspondence has helped me learn much about life abroad with the struggles, but also all the many reasons it is worth doing and ways to make it even better. Most importantly, the interview has cemented my belief that people need to experience cultures other than their own in order to gain empathy for others. Many people might mock parts of Indian culture without even really knowing about it. People should open up to other opinions, and realize that perhaps what they were taught to believe isn’t the only way or maybe not even the best way of doing things. People shouldn’t judge others based on second-hand information without actually knowing the facts and talking to the people that they’re making assumptions about. Here it is not considered normal to eat with your hands but in India it is routine. Without trying other ways, it is impossible to know if you’re doing things right.
This project has led to connections between Delphine and I. I had already communicated with Delphine before, but even my initial contact with her was with the intent of creating connections so it correlates with the purpose of this whole project to talk to others in order to be able to communicate better and form bonds of some sort which might lead to opportunities in the future. We now remain in contact and talk over text a couple times a week, though it is difficult because of the extreme time difference. I’m not certain if our communication will lead to any opportunities in the future, but I’m glad that I reached out to her because I got to hear her amazing story and in a way meet this new person who has a life so different from my own and is very inspirational to me.