One of my favorite parts of this trip has been getting to know the SAINTGITS students.
An akward first picture – none of us really knew each other yet. We also didn’t know to dress up…
We are working with eight ME students and eight MBA students. The ME students are third year undergraduates, and the MBA students are in their second year of graduate studies. At first, I was slighly overwhelmed trying to get to know 16 people at once (they, after all, only had to meet eight of us!). I’m terrible with names, too, so I didn’t actually get those down pat until the second to last day (right in time!). [I did know their faces before then!]
The industries we visited were usually pretty far away. Usually, that’s not so great, but the bus rides were where we really got to know the rest of the team. We would have these dance parties on the evening rides, and we had this really awesome party bus – it even had colored strobe lights! I don’t have a picture, because it was too dark, but they were really interesting.
By the picture above, we already knew each other better. This was a wedding! Manju’s older brother got married :) Mariya and I got Sarees the night before, and we wore them to the wedding. The girls helped us put them on, and were so helpful! Sarees have blouses that have to get stiched, so they made sure ours got stiched on time - they and Vinay went out of their way to make sure everything went well for us. Some of the guys also got the traditional jupas. I was very amazed at the hospitality all of the students and their families showed us. I couldn’t imagine being invited to a wedding in the US if I was only visiting for two weeks with a school exchange program. The wedding was huge (then again, I’ve never even been to an American wedding so what am I comparing this to?) and the food was reallly good. There was a certain order that you were supposed to eat it in, too. You were supposed to start with wine and cake, and then there were various rice, meat and veggie dishes. We came late (:() so we missed most of the wedding, but we went to visit the family after and took some pictures with the bride and groom:
Notice the PINEAPPLE FIELD in the background. I was really excited about this. Some of the SAINTGITS students went and picked a pineapple for me, but it wasn’t ripe yet :(
We also had fun taking a bunch of group pictures at the church where the wedding was - by this time, it wasn’t akward anymore! The groups were already mingling better!
On a few days where we had extra time, some of the students went into the city with us. We went shopping, walked around, took auto-rickshaws (yes, five people fit into the back of a tiny little cute car!), climbed to the top of a church and went out to eat.
Like I said before, I was amazed at the hospitality here. We went to several family’s homes. Each time, no matter how little notice we had given, there was food on the table and drinks ready. Even in shops, we would often be offered drinks. It was really sweet!
We were going to Kochi for the last day of our visit and heading to the airport the day after; none of the students were supposed to come with us. We really wanted to spend more time with them, though, so the four girls traveled up (and missed yet another day of school) to be with us. I was really touched, and there were definitely tears when we finally said goodbye.
I think we really got to know the students well. Tom said it better than I can - since coming, he said, he had never felt anything but welcomed. That’s how I felt too. I really appericiate everyone I have gotten to know. I can’t wait to work with them again in fall term during the class, but I wish it weren’t just through Skype!
Whenever I tell someone that Caltech has an undergraduate population of less than one thousand people, their first reaction is disbelief. “Really?” they exclaim. “You must know everyone! How can you get a real college experience with so few undergrads?”
One of the most exciting aspects of college life is the freedom that students enjoy when living on their own. When most students think about college life, one of the first things that comes to mind is Greek life, with the many sororities and fraternities on campuses across the country. While Caltech does not have Greek life, per se, we do have a unique housing system, similar to that of Hogwarts. There are eight houses and one residence on campus: Avery, Blacker, Dabney, Fleming, Lloyd, Page, Ricketts, Ruddock, and the Bechtel Residence. Each of the houses has its own unique culture, character, and traditions. I am a member of Ruddock House!
This past year was so different than most of us could have ever imagined. Living in “the virtual school year” posed a plethora of challenges, but at the same time, it opened the door to new possibilities. As a society, we learned how to better operate in a virtual world, and as individuals, we had time for new endeavors. For myself, this meant taking the leap of faith to move away from home and live with some fellow Techers. While I had already had the experience of moving away from home and coming to live in the Caltech houses, this was quite different. Instead of living in organized student residences with hundreds of other students, a meal plan, and tons of support resources, I was about to go live with just 5 other people (some of which I did not know super well) and we had to find and manage our own housing, food, and necessities.