Describe your most memorable experience from your trip.
Part of our time in India was spent in Ladakh at The Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL). On one of the first days there, we paired up with students from SECMOL and we went on a scavenger hunt in Leh. Spending time with each other off campus made the interaction more candid. And I think what made this experience so memorable is that we were able to explore the town not only with local students, but through their eyes.
Were you especially proud of something you accomplished on the trip or a lesson you learned while in the field?
Traveling through India was the first time I really immersed myself in a culture very different from my own, and so this trip was very critical to my own growth. Through this expedition, I learned the importance of cultural sensitivity, how to engage and ask questions while being mindful of the fact that my life experiences are not universally shared. This is something that has been invaluable to me as I have pursued my own research and studies.
How would you describe the community with whom you traveled?
The community I traveled with is perhaps the most eclectic group of people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. It is no surprise that National Geographic attracts only the most enthusiastic, curious, and passionate people. Traveling with students from across the country (and world) pushed me to think about certain issues and experiences differently than I otherwise would have. Britt and Himraj (our leaders) were also instrumental in fostering such an incredible group dynamic. And Ashima Narain, our Nat Geo expert, might be one of the coolest people I have ever met. I often forgot how accomplished she was because she was so amicable, and managed to teach us so much.
Have your travels with National Geographic inspired you to take other trips?
In a way, my travels with National Geographic left my unsettled. I realized just how big the world really is and that if wanted to get a taste of fraction of what the world has to offer, I needed to kick it into gear. Since then, I have been fortunate enough to go to Rome, Italy and the Amalfi Coast; I studied and traveled through Morocco for a summer; and I recently spent time performing research in Israel and Palestine. Next semester, I will be studying abroad at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. If I am being honest, I hope this unsettling feeling never goes away because it is what drives me pursue so many international experiences that have all been rewarding in their own unique ways.
Has traveling with National Geographic influenced your studies or career?
National Geographic definitely influenced the trajectory of my academic career. It is during my trip that my passion for cultural heritage came into focus. The On Assignment project was also the first time I conducted my own research, and now cultural heritage research consumes much of my life. As I mentioned earlier, my trip also helped prepare me to respectively engage with cultures different from own, which is a crucial element of my work.