Year traveled: 2016
On Assignment project theme: Anthropology & Local Cultures
Names of trip leaders: Sarah Messner, Federico Pardo
Name of expert: Sandesh Kadur
Describe the most memorable experience from your trip.
Inside a cozy dim-lit room nestled within a Himalayan valley, an unlikely crowd of people from all over the world gathered for a late-night dance party. Our language and cultural barriers seemed to vanish into thin air as upbeat Ladakhi music filled the room instead. The adrenaline from jamming to the music coupled with a genuine and pure connection to the people in the room made my heart swell with overwhelming excitement to be alive.
Describe something you did on your program that you thought you would never do.
There were countless moments on the trip when I would sit back and think to myself, “I can’t believe this is my life right now.” The most surreal moment would have to be when I was only a few feet away from the Dalai Lama as he went around blessing the different monasteries of Leh.
How would you describe the community you traveled with—students, leaders, and your expert?
There was always a collaborative energy behind our shared desire to learn about the culture of India and about each other. I’ll never forget our late-night pool parties at different palaces, belting out David Bowie songs on long road trips, and playing hide-and-seek in the Amber Fort of Jaipur. Every night we would come together to reflect on our shared learning experiences and connect them with personal stories from home.
When I returned from India, I had a deep sense of curiosity that I now direct into painting. In addition, I used what I learned from my photography leader Federico and my trip expert Sandesh to create an art film. Most of my work has been shown in local galleries, and I continue to satisfy my desire to create.
Did traveling with National Geographic help better prepare you for college and/or your career? If so, how?
Before my trip in India, I had spent my entire life planning to attend a university in my home state of Nebraska. Other possibilities just never crossed my mind. However, I gained confidence when my trip leader Sarah showed genuine interest in my future, and my peers who had been accepted into top schools inspired me as well. Now, I am so grateful (and still cannot believe) that I will be attending Harvard University in the fall.
What do you think makes National Geographic Student Expeditions special?
The trips are unique because they allow you to garner a real sense for a country through homestays and interviews with the fascinating people you encounter. It is not only a tour of landmarks and scenic vistas; it is immersion in a new culture.