Hospitality in India

This spring break, I went on the school global education trip to India. We traveled all over Northern India, from New Delhi to Agra (where the Taj Mahal is located) to Dehradun (where we stayed at boys’ and girls’ boarding schools), and finally to Varanasi, where we closed the 16-day journey. The entire trip was very eye-opening. I was particularly struck by the colorism in the country. For example, all of the movie stars were extremely light and most menial jobs, such as drivers and cooks, were done by darker Indians. However, what I was most struck by during my stay was the hospitality of the girls at Welham Girls’ School.

My first impression of Welham was good and bad. The food was delicious and everyone was so welcoming. However, the campus in in the middle of a city and is surrounded by barbed-wired brick walls on all four sides. I felt caged in and started to see the rolling hills of Groton in a new light. I was also turned off by the highly strict and traditional nature of the school. The girls aren’t allowed cell phones at all and can only leave campus with their own parents through a strict sign-out system. However, over the course of my stay, my opinions started to change.

Firstly, I started to warm up to the traditions on campus. Breakfast was at 8 and just like at Groton the dorms started to wake up all at the same time–7 a.m. After breakfast, all of the girls filed out and lined up for morning assembly. Their school captain (our version of senior prefect) opened the assembly, and then their headmistress made announcements. The whole assembly began with the singing of a hymn (sometimes in Hindi, sometimes in English)–just like at Groton. The girls complained like crazy about their classes and their teachers, but they were passionate about their interests too–just like at Groton. After school, the girls hustled to sports before they had study hall before they had dinner–just like at Groton, albeit in a different order. I was struck by how similar we were to the girls, even 10.5 hours around the globe. However, what really affected me was how kind the girls were.

When I say that I felt the most welcomed that I have ever felt in a new environment at Welham, I am not exaggerating. The senior girls who were tasked to show us around went above and beyond the line of duty. Not only them, but younger girls whom we didn’t interact with during the day would come to our dorm after dinner and talk to us about our lives. In addition, our dorm head constantly checked in to make sure everything was okay with our lodging. The whole experience made me realize how Groton falls short in our exchange program. It also made me realize how much more I personally can reach out to people whom I’m not that close with. All in all, my India trip made me realize that we humans are more alike than we think, and that’s a beautiful thing.