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UMM students in front of the Taj Mahal.

While in India, the 21 UMM students visited the Taj Mahal and universities in Delhi, Rohtak, and Jaipur.

UMM students visit India

By Judy Riley

February 21, 2006

Recently, over winter break, 21 University of Minnesota, Morris (UMM), students, accompanied by economics professor Pareena Lawrence, a native of India, paid $4,000 each to partake in the first study abroad to India sponsored by UMM's Office of Continuing Education and Regional Programs.

The program, Globalization: Examining India's Social and Economic Development, is designed to "observe the problems of mass poverty in India and its various ramifications and to examine sustainable grass roots efforts to combat this problem without the involvement of large sums of aid from the World Bank or other foreign governments or private sources."

Lawrence says that while the course was about globalization, she wanted to show her students that 50 percent of India's people have not been touched by globalization or have been perhaps negatively affected by it.

"In the interior villages, there are no paved roads, no running water (they use hand pumps), and work with NGOs (non-government organizations) to install 'conveniences' such as water pumps," she says. "Water is more precious than gold, and agriculture and handicrafts are the primary source of employment. The infrastructure in the small- and medium-sized cities isn't good due to overpopulation and lack of maintenance."

UMM students spent time with NGOs in the villages who work with women's groups surrounding the problems of AIDS, self-sufficiency, women's rights and child labor. "Women," says Lawrence "are mostly impoverished, and still 'behind the veil' in rural areas of the north. As far as giving back to the people they visited in rural areas of India, the students were surprised when women in both the north and south said "our being there without a veil and visiting a foreign country for an educational purpose empowered them."

Ironically, perhaps as a visible demonstration of globalization, the students recognized nearly 130 names and logos of international companies in a period of four hours while traveling through large metropolitan cities in India. They saw the Indian headquarters of companies such as Oracle and IBM in downtown Bangalore.

In preparation for the trip, the students read from two 100-page publications, one on Southeast Asia and another on India. They also watched two videos. During the trip, they visited the universities in Delhi, Rohtak, and Jaipur; met with elected village heads and government officials of Rohtak; wrote about the role of NGOs in the state-run economy; and had to turn in five papers in response to specific questions posed by their teacher. At the end of the trip, while waiting in the airport, the students had to reflect on paper how the trip had affected or changed them.

"To have foreigners come by... and take their hands and hold their kids and smile at them, we showed them that someone cared," says senior Russell Haywood, of a visit to a self-help group where residents had made chalk drawings for them and provided entertainment.

"I wanted to learn about another culture," says sophomore Ashley Anderson, who has developed a liking for samosas (a triangular egg roll with a spicy potato-like filling) and buttered naan (local bread). "There's more to the world than just the U.S. economy."

Anderson, who, along with some other female students on the trip wore a head covering called a dupatta, says she was more conscious about how she dressed while in India. Realizing how much freedom U.S. women have, she says it was "kind of sad that the women of India don't have that freedom."

However, she adds, "people there who didn't have a lot, seemed a lot happier than some people here."

To learn more about study abroad offerings at UMM, visit the Center for International Programs.