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Koret Fellowship Program

Jolyssa Souza

Political Science major, class of 2019

This past July, I attended an Immersion trip with SCU’s Ignatian Center. The immersions trips are intended to get students to see the world through a new lense, to recognize the unjust suffering of marginalized communities and individuals, and to allow the experiences we have on the immersion to inform our vocational discernment. For my immersion experience, I spent twenty days in India where my immersion group and I traveled throughout the city of Mumbai and the village Talasari. There, we visited various places of worship, schools, orphanages, organizations, and communities. India was diverse, outside of my comfort zone, and incredibly welcoming.

I use the word diverse to describe India because there are do many religions and cultures within this country that coexist peacefully with one another. We had the opportunity to spend time in India’s Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, and Parsi communities. For many of the people we met in India, their religious beliefs were a huge part of their identity and no matter what tradition they identified with, their beliefs were respected. It was amazing to see a place where these traditions are able to peacefully coexist with a mutual agreement that every belief is equally valuable and sacred.

Saying this trip was outside of my comfort zone, is an understatement. Truth is, the first time I tried Indian food was IN India. More impactful than having Indian food for 20 consecutive days, were the instances where we encountered human injustices. While simply driving down a street in Mumbai, expensive hotels are right next to the slums, and mansions are neighbors to citizens sleeping on the side of the road. My heart broke for the child beggars, orphaned disabled children and adults, as well as the elderly at Mother Teresa's charity, Asha Daan. The trash covered beaches were disheartening, and the excitement our group had when we could finally see a rare view of the sun, briefly from behind the smog in the sky we had grown accustomed to, is an experience I will not forget.

When describing India as welcoming, I don’t necessarily give thought to the seemingly never-ending requests for “selfies”. I instead remember all of the college students from the Xavier Institute of Technology that took the time out of their busy class schedules to have various conversations with us, show us around the largest slum in India, and even opened their homes to us when we participated in homestays. Memories of all the Fathers, Sisters, and students who welcomed us to their schools and organizations with songs, dances, games, and warm meals are definitely my most treasured moments. Their hospitality and human kindness did not go unnoticed, and will continue to be remembered.

As a political science major, having  studied the political system of India and the implications in which it effects the day to day lives of their citizens, it was amazing to see it first hand. This immersion trip allowed me to go beyond the classroom textbook and truly see the effects of this system for myself. As someone who hopes to someday work in International Diplomacy, experiencing an authentic and unbiased lens toward India  allowed me to truly experience this culture and teach me just how important it is to be continuously connected with people who are directly  affected by policies that are passed in government. Overall, this trip opened my eyes.  I foresee myself continuously drawing on this rare and valuable experience to view the world with a new perspective.