Thursday, August 28, 2008
Clara Houin, pictured here, is from Plymouth, Indiana. Located in north-central Indiana, it had an estimated population of 11,025 in 2006.
Some will tell you that it was where the first retail outlet of the now-defunct U.S. retailer Montgomery Ward opened in 1926. Last year, one of her neighbors became the first person from Plymouth to become Miss Indiana.
In one of the earliest blog entries, you met Aashish Batra, another Kelley School student, who is from Delhi, India, said by some to be the third largest city in the world.
Both of them speak Hindi.
“Before Aug. 2 of this year, I thought I knew all about India. I had studied the languages of Urdu and Hindi for over a year, researched the culture, did group projects on the history and learned what not to eat or drink,” Clara says. “Yet with all this preparation, the country did not cease to surprise me. When I de-boarded an eight-hour flight from Brussels to New Delhi, I had the cultural shock of a lifetime.”
Batra previously had been one of about 60 Indians in a cultural exchange program and he says that that he saw the Kelley School class as a good way to repeat the experience, only with “so many good professors on board.”
But now, he admits, he has seen his home country through the eyes of Clara and many of the other 26 honors students on the trip. Batra, who plans to return home after getting his IU degree, appreciates seeing first-hand what Americans think about India and how they reacted to what they saw.
“That’s completely the purpose of the trip – how you see the Indian economy,” he says. “You’ve always studied the American economy yourself, now you have an opportunity to study the Indian economy … This gives me a chance to get into the American mind and study the Indian economy.
“We’ve got to learn a lot from each other,” Batra says.
He enjoyed going for a rickshaw ride with fellow students in Delhi’s chaotic streets and seeing their reactions to the wandering cows and other curiosities.
Houin, who plans to minor in India Studies at IU, has always been known as her family’s “Indian princess” because of a birthmark on her forehead, which has since been removed. As a result, “it’s been in my subconscious … I’ve always been interested in India,” she says.
Growing up in Plymouth, she says that her parents have always raised their children to be open-minded and have a world view. Despite all that she did to prepare for the trip, what she learned back in Bloomington paled in comparison with what she saw.
“There’s a lot more reality to it that I never had even imagined – the poverty, the filthiness, the real raw stuff that these people have to deal with everyday,” she says. “I’ve seen the pictures of the beautiful architecture and the lovely clothing that they make here. Coming here has really enlightened me on how different everyone else in the world is from people in the United States and how they have to deal with the harshness of life.”
When the group visited a special economic zone in Manesar, Houin surprised the host by presenting the Kelley School’s gift to him in Hindi.
“I have never been so intellectually and emotionally impacted by an academic experience before in my life,” she says. “India made me appreciate just how much the rest of the world is in need of foreign investment, and I plan to invest my future in broadening horizons for countries like India.”