I joined ISM’s IMBA program in July 2020, intending to move to Paris in January 2021, start classes in person, and have the robust MBA experience abroad that I’d always imagined. However, COVID-19 had other plans for me as the second wave started in France and classes remained online through winter 2021 and beyond. I was torn and not sure if I should bite the bullet and head over to France anyway, or if I should spend some more time in the United States and wait for the vaccine.

The more I thought about it, I realized that I could travel to India instead since I have a lifelong visa, roots, and extended family there. I have always wanted to spend several months there to build closer connections with my grandparents and extended family, experience the culture, and learn how locals live. On January 30th, I left for India for two months. Here are four things I learned through this experience:

Through cultural differences, one thing remains constant: we are all human. In the past, I struggled to make connections with my peers in India because I felt like there were too many cultural differences. I’ve long had an identity crisis because I feel I’m not American looking while in the United States, but I’m not Indian sounding or acting while I’m in India. At the end of the day, all of us humans make connections in similar ways. While we may have different thought processes and upbringings, we experience love, sadness, happiness and can relate to more than one thing.

Food connects us in more ways than we think. If there was one thing that I had in common with all of my family members, it was that we love to eat. I was lucky enough to try an abundance of different Indian and Mumbai-style foods ranging from street vendors to 5-star hotels. Food is cultural, emotional, and necessary for every human. 

Taking a risk is always either worth it or is a lesson. I took many risks in making this trip to India; 1. We are in the middle of a global pandemic 2. I left a job I loved 3. I had to adjust to a different time zone while in grad school and 4. I flew across the world without a plan. In my case, taking these risks was well worth the reward, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. 

I am privileged to have had this experience. Though having strong roots in one country and growing up in another has had its challenges, I’ve been lucky to have the resources to be able to experience both cultures.  

I am thankful to ISM’s schedule, online classes, and flexible professors that allowed me to have this wonderful experience.

As my trip came to an end, COVID-19 cases were rising in India, but I never imagined that it would get as bad as it has at the time I am writing this. As international students at ISM, many of us want to travel and see the world from a lens that is different from the one we grew up with. While experiencing life through a global lens is important, we all have to remember that safety comes first. Before traveling, think about pandemic safety, get a COVID-19 vaccine if it is available to you, check all rules and guidelines for travel to and from your destination and home, and remember to wear your mask wherever you go. Most of all, what I have learned through this whole experience is that we each hold a responsibility to help the world get out of this pandemic. No one country is safe until every country is safe.

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