The University of Iowa

Student Reflections on Race and Ethnicity: Experiencing India

February 23rd, 2015

UI Study Abroad Diversity Ambassador Amira Nash is a sophomore majoring in psychology with a secondary education interest. Over the 2014-15 winter break she studied abroad for three weeks on the UI India Winterim Program where she took the course "Individual Differences in Classrooms: Rehab through Physical and Educational Interventions."

Amira with a student at the Satya Special School in Pondicherry

Dear Prospective Student,

My name is Amira Nash and I am a sophomore studying psychology with a minor in Spanish and interest in secondary education. During Iowa’s winter break of 2014-2015, I studied abroad in India for three weeks through the Iowa India Winterim program. Though this was my second time studying abroad, I was still nervous and felt somewhat unprepared for the culture shock of a different country.

My first experience abroad was in Spain during winter break of my freshman year. While this was an enlightening experience, it was not so different from my own culture. Traveling to India, however, I was excited to explore those cultural and social differences. Starting with the sheer amount of people on the streets of Chennai, the town I flew into, I knew the Youtube travel videos I’d watched in preparation were not exaggerating. The noisy traffic and the spicy, mostly vegetarian food was all so new to me but having an open mind allowed me to undertake a truly eye-opening adventure.

Being a minority was far from a problem in India, where someone like me with black hair and brown skin can blend in. Even though my clothing and lack of knowledge of the native language gave away my tourist status, I found everyone to be extremely pleasant and often curious about Americans. Shopkeepers, waiters, students, and hotel staff all welcomed my friends and I with open arms and many befriended us, allowing us to gain a deeper understanding of Indian culture while they gained the same from us.

Studying abroad is one of the best decisions a student can make, and the benefits go far beyond the academic career. My experiences studying abroad have made me a better person and I have learned things that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Don’t let any barriers stop you from an incredible opportunity to experience another culture firsthand, because it will make you a well-rounded person. 

Amira Nash

Learn about the Diversity Ambassador Scholarship for study abroad