Three years ago, I couldn't have possibly imagined that by my senior year of college I would've already taken four semesters of Chinese and traveled to China to teach dance. Despite having visited numerous countries with my family members, the world has always felt incredibly large. Anywhere my parents have taken me, it’s been with the best accommodations and to all the touristic places, so it’s never felt as though I understood what life is like in these countries. The world feels large when you think of the planet being covered in a sea of faceless people with whom you have no relationship. Just meeting my international friends at Duke, I began to feel the world converge; people from other countries had routines and emotions like I did. This is why I’m especially excited to immerse myself into a completely new location and culture. I've been to more countries than the average American probably has, but I would by no means consider myself worldly because of this. Everywhere I've been, I've been a sheltered tourist, and if you know the way my parents visit other countries, you know that I don’t really know these countries from the inside. An international friend of mine has lived in 5 different countries in his lifetime thus far and visited far more than that for service purposes, and I can definitely say I’m fairly jealous of him...I am so privileged to be able to learn and hopefully grow from this DukeEngage experience. I feel that it will affect me more than it affects the children I meet there, and I hope that it makes my world feel closer, connected and just a little bit smaller.

So I'm leaving for DukeEngage in Zhuhai, China today (if you didn't get that already) and I've already felt such a wide range of emotions that I'm not really sure how to describe what they are anymore. Naturally, as I approach this new experience of traveling to a foreign country for the first time without my parents, I am nervous. I’m afraid that my body will have trouble adjusting to the heat and the air. I’m worried that I won’t be able to control and teach a group of middle school students. I’m most afraid that my inherent introversion will prevent me from taking full advantage of this time in China. Post-China, maybe a few years down the line, I’m hoping that I can prove to my parents that this experience was worth having, that cultural immersion can be just as important as doing research or volunteering at a hospital. I've felt like I've had to prove myself to my parents in so many ways lately – making sure they know I will be there to take care of them as they get older, showing them that my gap year will be beneficial to not only my career but also my life and wellbeing, defending my decisions because I do think I’m old enough to make them. It feels hopeless sometimes because change is so gradual and disappointment grows until it is given a reason to fall. I love my parents and they’ve supported me in so many things, so I just hope that continues. I hate feeling like the people I’m fighting the most in being confident and happy with my own decisions are the ones that matter to me the most.

Why do we as Indians make sacrifices of our own lives for our parents and our families? They say it’s to show that we love them, and to show appreciation for everything that they have done for us. But why does fighting against our happiness have to be way to do this? I thought that’s all they wanted for us: our happiness. So why can’t couples who genuinely love each other be together just because they have different castes or cultures? Why is it a sin for your child to have a career in humanities if that’s what makes them happy? Because so many of our opinions are fueled by how we think society will think of us, of what our extended family will think about the decisions we make? If your children get married out of caste, that’s apparently a direct reflection of how you brought them up wrong. It’s an aged idea that infuriates me but persists still. What comes out of it? You've lived your entire life on the basis of your parents will and you've probably given up many things that were important to you. They might be satisfied, but seeing that you are not, they might not be either very soon after. Indian family and moral values are so strong and so beautiful. I know that no culture is perfect, but I can see how close my own personal Indian culture is to getting there, so I just wish we were there already.

Okay, I went on a complete tangent there, but I've just been thinking a lot about my future recently because I realized that I’m pretty much a senior and this is my last year in this sheltered bubble at Duke. After that I have to go out on my own and find a way to survive, be happy, and keep everyone else happy. Kidding, I know all that doesn't come at once. That’s one great thing about my culture: our parents don’t just drop us after we hit college. On the other hand, this also makes it a lot harder to learn independence because it’s so much harder for them to let go. Just gotta try harder.

I’m not really sure what to expect, despite the fact that we've spent all of DukeEngage Academy and this semester talking about and preparing for this trip. I’m not sure anything can prepare us for how we ourselves will react to these new conditions and circumstances. Despite all of the complaining I just did though, I am truly very excited to be visiting China. It’s just jumbled in with other emotions like apprehension and anticipatory anxiety.

Last thing, shout-out to my sister for having so much belief and confidence in me. She’s younger than I am by 6 years, but somehow always reminds me that I can do all the things I set my mind to, even when I forget to believe it myself. Now the next thing for her to do is believe in herself too, because she has so much more potential and talent than she even knows. She’s my sister, after all. J

I’ll be blogging on the DukeEngage blog this summer so you can hear what I’m up to over there. Otherwise, I’m hoping to update here more often too with things that are more personal to me. 祝你们很好玩地暑假! 再见!

One Response so far.

  1. Love you di, I'll never not believe in you<3

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