As I sat alongside a group of people who I had met just 30 minutes prior, in a place halfway across the world from where I live, I felt a sudden rush of gratitude for where life had led me so far. It’s crazy to think that just a couple of days ago, I was still in the U.S., taking my dog on afternoon walks and watching Netflix in my room. And now, there I was, eating chicken kabobs and talking with kids from all over India.
Last night, our cohort decided to grab dinner at a nearby restaurant, along with a group of Indian students who participated in the Leadership Collective (a program similar to HeritageIndia, sponsored by a non-profit called 360+, which brings students from all over the world to various different parts of India). From that group of Indian students, I met teenagers who hailed from Andra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, and other states across India. It was so interesting to talk to them – whether we were speaking about our passions and interests, or even just about places that we wanted to travel to one day – and basically gain insight into their experiences as teenagers in India.
As I spoke to these kids, it really dawned upon me just how similar we were. Even though we lived in different countries and were raised under different cultures, we were all so curious about the world around us and passionate about living life to the fullest and leaving a positive impact on the world. As I sat alongside that group of people who I had met just 30 minutes prior, not only did I feel so thankful to be able to participate in such a life-changing program as HeritageIndia, but I also felt so empowered to be a young voice in today’s society. Sitting in such a diverse group of young people my age, it really excites me to see how my generation, regardless of which country we’re from, is capable of truly making a better world a reality.
DJ is one of 8 students in Indiaspora’s inaugural HeritageINDIA Program. A unique, immersive, 3-week summer program, this initiative gives high school students of Indian descent the opportunity to connect to their ancestral homeland. Students experience and engage with India’s rich and diverse cultural history by completing hands-on projects, participating in stimulating discussions, and building friendships with a cohort that will share in this once-in-a-lifetime experience. With the exciting theme of India’s Riches: History, Culture, Diversity, & Democracy, students visit three areas of India that are geographically and culturally diverse, yet all very much represent India: New Delhi, Gujarat, and Kerala.