Name: Diana
Art History
Program: SIT Tibetan Studies
Where: India, Nepal and Tibet (China)
When: Fall 2006
Favorite Course: Tibetan Studies Seminar
Best Excursion: Our visit to Samye monastery, which was the first Buddhist monastery founded in Tibet.
Favorite Dish: Difficult question! Yak momos, perhaps. Momos are a kind of Tibetan dumpling. One eats them with ketchup and hot sauce.
Next Destination: How will I ever decide?

How do you see this experience affecting your future?

The six months I spent in India, Nepal and Tibet will most definitely affect the rest of my life, academically, professionally and personally. Before studying in the SIT Tibetan Studies program, I attended the Temple in India program in Gujarat. The people I met were so welcoming and so interesting, and the places I visited were so beautiful, that I have enrolled in a Gujarati language program for this summer, so that I might visit many more times. Next summer I will continue my Tibetan language studies at the University of Virginia, and then I hope to spend a year at Tibet University in Lhasa. During my time in South Asia I realized that I wish to be an anthropologist, and that decision has changed my considerations of graduate school and of professions along the way. My focus of research will most definitely be South Asia, including Tibet. My focus of study was under question for a long time, but this study abroad experience has made me realize the intrinsic beauty of Indian and Tibetan cultures, and I have no choice but to allow them to take hold of me.

What is one piece of advice you would pass on to a student who is about to study abroad?

I imagine that this is a fairly cliché answer, but I think the best advice would be to keep an open mind and to be aware of yourself and how you might habitually classify your experiences. Especially if you go to the "Third World," as a student studying abroad, you will see and experience things that are completely out of your frame of reference. When I was in India and Tibet, I noticed that some of my classmates spent so much time comparing things in that very different environment to those at home that they never were able to truly learn about what it's like to live in the cultures they encountered. They seemed to classify things as "foreign," and therefore made no personal connection with them. When I went abroad I realized that it doesn’t matter how I live in the US, what my standards are, how people conduct themselves - people in India really don't care about that because they have their own standards and own customs. What matters is that I am human, you are human, they are all human, and we might have our differences, but those are minor, really, in our connections with one another.