My Experience of Studying Abroad
Over this winter break, I had the privilege to study abroad in India as a part of a collaborative experience between the University of Iowa College of Engineering, the Purdue University College of Engineering, and the Sehgal Foundation. The central focus of the trip was to conduct testing related to rural water poverty issues.
Some of the factors that were being tested include water salinity and total dissolved solids, E. Coli and other bacterial presence, nitrogen and fluoride levels, and a few other indicators which can help us build a picture of the water quality situation in the rural areas we were studying. The testing was done by students, with the aid of our professors and partners at both Authentica and the Sehgal Foundation. Splitting up into small groups, we worked with local people, as well as our translators and guides, in order to find the specific wells we were hoping to test. This collaboration allowed us to test a wide variety of sites in a short period of time.
Some of the sites we tested had established data from previous years, which allowed us to map the trends over time, and gain a better understanding of the ways that these issues are developing. In addition to this, we did testing at a number of new sites in order to determine if the issues faced are similar or if they vary throughout the region.
In addition to the research aspect of the trip, we had a number of incredible opportunities for cultural immersion. We were able to visit a number of schools and learn about the work the Sehgal foundation has done to ensure that the students have access to safe drinking water, and the incredible systems they have put in place in order to ensure regular system maintenance. Additionally, we were able to visit a wide variety of cultural heritage sites such as the Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra Fort, and Mahabodhi Temple. One of my favorite experiences was our trip to Chand Baori, which is an ancient step well located in Rajasthan.
This trip was truly a once-in-a lifetime opportunity. I may return to India sometime in my future, but I think the value of being there as a student and a learner is immeasurable. There are so many incredible experiences that I never would have had if I had come in any other capacity. There were days we were in the fields conducting our testing, and families invited us into their homes for tea or lunch. Many of the people we met were kind enough to share their stories and it was truly incredible to hear their perspectives, not only on the issues of water quality, but what they had to share about life in general. I am incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity to represent the University of Iowa, and to experience a culture so vastly different than my own.