taliaivry2Hometown: Madison, Wisconsin

Tell us about your favorite book: I have many favorite books, but one I am reading right now that I’m really enjoying is a collection of myths and legends by Jake Jackson. This book is very interesting since it includes all sorts of stories and fables from a variety of different cultures and regions from around the world. I love learning about human belief systems, so it’s always fascinating to read ‘origin stories’ for different peoples, and see the commonalities between them. I’ve especially loved reading the Creation Myths from West Africa, in which animals talk and act like humans, and which always imparts a moral lesson by the end of the story.

Give one random fact about you: I cry every single time I listen to Float On by Modest Mouse.

In class, what kind of character are you?: I participate a lot in class if I think what we’re talking about is interesting, so in my English and History classes I never shut up. In my math classes though, it’s harder for me to connect with the material since I often feel like it’s dry and impersonal, and I don’t talk as much.

If you were a fruit, what would it be?: I would be a mango because I don’t have a very thick skin, I’m sweet if you catch me at the right time and I love tropical climates.

What do you think will be surprising about India?: I think I’ll be surprised at what feels comfortable to me in terms of living situations and food and what will feel new and a little scary. It’ll also be new to me to be in a place in which the women cover up their hair with headscarves, but I’m not sure what it will feel like for me to do that. I also think the Indian food we’ll eat in India will be very different than what typical “American Indian” cuisine is like.

In what ways do you feel that India will be challenging for you?: I think it will be challenging to come into contact with instances of extreme poverty. For me, being fortunate enough to live in the US in a city where homelessness is not as evident or widespread as in bigger urban areas, I am not sure how my perceptions of my own living situations or those of my Western peers will shift after seeing and interacting with people living in poverty. Additionally, I know that in some more conservative areas of India I will have to wear a headscarf and cover up my body and this is something I have virtually never had to do. Having lived all of my life in a fairly open and “Western” society (conservative in different ways) in which I have been lucky enough to not worry so much about how society forces me to dress. This is not to say that I haven’t had to deal with societal expectations of what a teenaged girl should wear and act like, but I feel that in India I’ll come across this in a different and challenging way.

How do you hope to be changed by this trip to India?: I hope to push myself way out of my comfort zone by being so far away from my family and community at home, and through that I think I’ll gain a deeper sense of independence and strength within myself. I also want to learn from the other cultures I am exposed to both in India and among my peers on the trip, and I hope this will open my mind and heart to the diversity of the world. One thing my mentor, Lauren Lauter, said that really resonated with me is that before she went to India on her abroad program during college, she knew intellectually that people everywhere are just that, people, but that through her stay in India she really understood it in her heart, and now feels a certain global kinship that makes her unafraid to travel anywhere or meet anybody. That kind of global curiosity, open-mindedness, and courage is what I hope to gain through my trip to India. I can’t wait.

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