Bush School Students Study in India during Winter Break

January 25, 2013

January 25, 2013

Twenty-five Bush School of Government and Public Service students from Texas A&M University took part in a study abroad program in New Delhi, India, over the winter break.  The group, which included first- and second-year students from both the Master of Public Service and Administration (MPSA) and the Master’s Program in International Affairs (MPIA), arrived in India on December 28 and returned on January 12, leaving little time to recover from jet lag before classes began again on January 14.

The program was a collaborative venture with the Jindal School of International Affairs in Sonipat, Haryana, India; and the students took classes in the India Habitat Centre in Delhi as the campus was too far away to commute on a daily basis. The Jindal School of International Affairs is part of O.P. Jindal Global University (JGU), a private, nonprofit entity established in memory of Mr. O.P. Jindal.  JGU has an agreement with Texas A&M to exchange students and faculty, conduct joint research programs, present an executive program for Indian professionals, and share classroom teaching via video conferencing.

Dr. Kishore Gawande and Dr. Nirmal Goswami organized the program, which is held every two years. The students had lectures, discussions, and meetings on a variety of topics, including the country’s history, culture, political structures, economic development, housing issues, defense issues, and even its pop culture.  Among others, they met with the Basix Social Enterprise Group, a microfinance organization that allowed them to gain insight into local microfinance projects, and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), an apex business organization that was established in 1927 and serves as the voice of India’s business and industry.  “India was a whirlwind of beautiful chaos that somehow worked together.  The classes gave us information to take to the streets in our afternoon field trips.  It was, in one word, unforgettable,” said second-year MPIA student Caitlin Harwood.

Day excursions and extracurricular activities included visits to Qutb Minar, the Lotus Temple, the Taj Mahal, and other iconic Indian sights. The students also visited Parliament, where they discussed the historic events of India’s independence, and the Supreme Court, where they witnessed advocates presenting cases.  They watched cricket and ate traditional Indian food, striving to avoid the infamous “Delhi Belly” sickness that some tourists experience. On one of their first days in Delhi, the group observed peaceful protests on women’s rights, the result of public outrage at a recent attack on a young Indian woman on a bus. Second-year MPSA student Warren Chalklen added, “India humanized for me the many challenges and successes facing countries across the globe.”

Even a police-mandated curfew of 12:30 a.m. didn’t dampen the students’ New Year’s Eve celebration at a Western-style restaurant, the Smokehouse Grill. They shared food and fun and danced their way into the new year.

In a statement that sums up the sentiments of the entire group, second-year MPSA student Ashley Spradlin shared, “India was perfect. Along with the opportunities to speak with experts across several disciplines, seeing the spirit and strength of the Indian people was worth the trip. Their determination and optimism in the face of so many obstacles is inspirational… unbelievable. I’ve always known I have it easy in this world, but to see smiling faces on people with so much less really put things into perspective for me. I am honored to have met with the amazing leaders fighting to better their country; and I hope we are able to contribute, even in a small way, to their efforts.”

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