Hi, My name is Bec Ward and I am one of the Professional Communication/Digital Media students that was recently in India for a Sustainability Exchange Program with the Centre for Environmental Education (CEE).
As we sit aboard our Emirates flight bound for Australia, the plane starting to taxi down the runway, I begin writing this post. I look around at the now familiar faces around me, some sleepy and tucked in, others excited and chatty at the thought of steak and chips in 33 hours time. However, our journey is far from over. Now is the time to reflect, digest and utilise the perspectives of what we experienced.
Collectively, we enjoyed our whirlwind exchange trip to India together, but each person on this program will take away their own individual experience, which may be personal, career or study wise. Their experience is their own and that experience will continue to shape us over the years- into our future careers and beyond.
The Indian culture is vibrant and truly is a wonderful explosion of the senses. For me personally, as a hobbyist photographer, the visual aspects of India is something that profoundly stands out and caught my breath at times. As part of the exchange program I was required to document the experiences. Sunrises over temples, the rich vibrant colours, colourful clothes, children’s beautiful faces and the detailed architecture were stunning. However, the poverty, environmental issues, the sadness in hungry eyes were sobering to experience but it was just as important to see.
One surreal moment that stands out is walking through the old heritage streets of Ahmedabad, we went through a secret tiny doorway which opened up into a courtyard. As I looked up women were unfurling their colourful saris from a third floor window. The sound of the saris in the wind and the vibrant unfurling colours were a feast for the senses. The sari grazed my head and I couldn’t help but think ‘Am I really here or is this a movie set?’
During the sustainability exchange program, we were exposed to a varied range of activities and educational and environmental programs.
The education students were inspired by visits to a variety of schools. One school that had the education team giddy with enthusiasm was The Mahatma Gandhi International School. This school’s curriculum incorporates a more holistic approach to education and all the future teachers were sparked by possible news ways of thinking and teaching.
The Environment Science students also took field trips to learn about India’s waste management systems. I was a little surprised to learn that yes indeed India does recycle and are moving to innovative ways to become sustainable.
A stand out moment for the science team was a seminar with Dr Bharat Pathak from VIKSAT Nehru Foundation for Development, Ahmedabad. Students were deeply inspired by Dr Bharat Pathak and his knowledge. Field visits to rural communities and forest camps were also an essential part of the learning experience, as Dr Bharat had said ‘you cannot teach ecosystems on a board’.
For social and cultural contexts, we were treated to heritage tours, rooftop kite flying, Gurajati language classes, museums, and visits to small villages where we learnt about tribal practices and living standards.
We also made the most of our free time exploring the city and discovered just how much fun auto rickshaws can be. We thoroughly enjoyed daily feasts of glorious spicy, traditional Indian cuisines. Visits to the markets and handicraft stores were also aplenty to satisfy those shoppers amongst us.
Special thanks must go to CEE for their hospitality on their beautiful campus. It really was a home away from home and the staff went above and beyond to cater for us and were very friendly and welcoming. Also thank you to our three lecturers Judith, Karena and Miriam who travelled , planned and guided us through the trip.
This whole life changing experience would not have been possible without the support of CQUni and of course the Government’s New Colombo Plan which provides funding for students to develop skills and work-based experiences and the opportunity to contribute on an individual and global level.
I feel, now I have landed back at home, perhaps somewhat reverse culture shock. I want to go back and I feel like my time was too short and there must be more I can do. I know I will be considering how I can further contribute in the future, personally and career wise, to global issues such as poverty and environmental concerns.
I think it’s maybe time to start saving for another trip!
Mahatma Gandhi famously said ‘My life is my message’.
Well this is your life, this is your message, so go make the most of it!