Group explores evolving India

Dan Nelson

Dan Nelson

A country that supports democracy and strives after economic growth, India is establishing itself to become one of the world’s elite.

Culture, environment and food systems were the primary elements South Dakota State University students studied while spending spring break in India.

“Three main elements: Culture, environment and food systems provided the main emphasis for the trip,” said Diane Rickerl, professor and coordinator of the diversity and multiculturalism program for the College of Agricultural and Biolo-gical Sciences.

“We try and pick the elements that are both similar and relevant to SDSU students, and we all thought India provided that.”

Rickerl developed the course to help students experience culture and diversity in countries other than the United States.

“It’s important to look at diver-sity in foreign countries,” said Rickerl.

Students who went to India traveled under the ABS 482 Inter-national Experience program that takes students to foreign countries and introduces them to ethnic culture and tradition.

Majors represented include: psychology, history, geography, economics and journalism. Eleven students, three faculty members and SDSU photographer Eric Landwehr took part in the Experience program.

The primary emphasis was for students to become more familiar with the culture, environment and food systems in India.

“The entire experience is a lesson in humanity, hope, and humility. It was very eye-opening and really put a lot of things into perspective,” said geography graduate student Anya Hartpence.

Many of the students attended lectures at the University of Hyder-abad, which presented issues like environment and social movements happening in India. The information accumulated during the lectures will become sources that the students will use for their final class projects.

“The lectures at the university and the institution helped us understand the culture of India and how the food system works,” said Lacie Brandts, a Garden City junior ma-joring in animal sciences.

Students were able to experience the culture of India, a country that is dominated by the Hindu religion.

“I really liked that there were cattle everywhere,” said Brandts. “When we were in the country we saw farmers with their cattle, but there were cattle in the cities, too. In Dehli, a city of about 14 million, there were cattle walking down the middle of the street with all the cars, buses and people. When we were at the University of Hyderabad, we even saw cattle walking around on campus.”

While seeing and learning, students were also able to smell and taste the ethnic food.

“The food was another thing I especially liked while there,” said Hartpence. “It was absolutely scrumptious. I will not soon forget the wonderful aroma, flavors and textures of dining in India.”

India is a country that boasts the second highest population growth rate in the last 15 years – after China – and grows more than 6 percent in population each year.

A study conducted by Goldman Sachs projects that in the next 50 years, India will be the fastest-growing of the world’s major economies.

Currently, Indian companies are posting yearly gains of 15 to 25 percent, suggesting an enormous push for growth and economic expansion.

However, India still holds plenty of problems within its own borders. Containing 40 percent of the world’s poverty and second-largest HIV population, India still presents the problem of financial isolation. But many experts believe India is a primary candidate for economic growth and change. According to Newsweek magazine, Gurcharan Das, former CEO of Procter & Gamble, said, “The government sleeps at night and the economy grows.”

India has sustained democracy for more than 60 years even though it still remains one of the poorest countries in all of Asia, which makes many experts believe change is within grasp.

“When I travel on these trips, I always realize how insignificant so many of my problems are in the greater world,” said Hartpence. “I also realize how much I take for granted, and how much of a greater appreciation I have for the rest of the world in light of the different standards of living and so forth.”

According to a Pew Global Attitudes survey, 71 percent of Indians had a favorable impression of the United States, making both students and faculty comfortable with the idea of studying in India.

“Above all, I think it is important for people to realize how much is gained by travel-abroad experiences,” said Hartpence. “When one becomes completely immersed in a new culture, and is taken outside of the context of their comfort zone, amazing things become realized about themselves.”