Preparing for Departure

Hello everyone! Jay Rutherford and Garrett Painter here, two more course bloggers from Maryville College. With only three days left until we depart for India students are putting the finishing touches on their site and issue papers, getting their bags packed, and getting ready to fly out next Wednesday.

All students, from both Elon and Maryville, will be converging in Atlanta on Wednesday for our flight to India. As this will be the first time all of the students in the India’s Identities group have been together since our weekend in Asheville back in September, this reunion is sure to be an exciting beginning to an excellent trip.

From Atlanta the group will be embarking on a roughly ten-hour flight to Frankfurt, Germany. For some students, this will be the longest flight they have ever taken. After landing in Germany the group will have just over an hour on the ground (enough to say we’ve all been to Germany!) before boarding our connecting flight to Chennai.

After yet another ten-hour plane flight the India’s Identities group will finally be arriving in Chennai sometime around midnight (and the battle against jet lag will commence). Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu and the fourth largest city in all of India, will be the group’s first introduction to life in India and function as the home base of sorts for our trip, since it will be where the group spends their first and last few days in the country.

Although departure is only a few days away and we are on the home stretch for the beginning of the India’s Identities trip, it is important not to overlook the tremendous amount of preparation that has been required of both the students and especially our two professors. Dr. Pennington and Dr. Allocco have been working behind the scenes planning this trip for nearly a year, and India’s Identities students are extremely fortunate to have such dedicated and knowledgeable leaders. From planning the trip itinerary, reserving hotels and transportation, and making sure that students are prepared for the journey, our professors have put forth an amazing amount of work in ensuring that this will be the trip of a lifetime.  A great deal of gratitude is also owed to Sunil, our liaison on the ground in India, who all the students are looking forward to meeting for the first time in person.


Sunil, sitting in front of one of the houses at Dakshinachitra, a living museum/heritage center that we will visit during our course.  Here you can see kolams, the geometric designs drawn in rice flour by Tamil women in front of their homes each morning.  Kolams connote ausiciousness and welcome, and also serve to feed small creatures like insects and lizards.

We students have also been doing our part in preparing for the trip. While many may expect a trip such as this taking quite a bit of preparation, it is shocking how long the preparation actually took. From first getting our passports, all the way up to getting everything packed and ready to go, it is amazing how much work falls in between the beginning and the end.

Of course, getting our passports took long enough, and then we had to get our Indian visas, which was a time consuming and complicated process that required quite a bit of paperwork with every little detail filled out correctly. From there, the MC students had several meetings with our wonderful professors to begin planning all of our logistical details.

What did some of these details include? First, we of course had to get immunizations. Shots, the bane of every childhood, but, by now, we have hopefully overcome this fear. As a piece of advice, if your mother is a worrier, do not take her to the travel clinic with you. If you do, prepare for her to be in a fit of worry after the nurse gives you advice over what you should not do and what warnings are in place for the area of the world that you are traveling to.

Second, the dreaded packing list must be created. For those of us who have never traveled out of the country, this can be a daunting task. Luckily, we have two professors who were able to provide some help in the form of a general packing list. So now, with our clothes, toiletries, journals, Pepto, cameras, and everything else organized and packed, our departure date is slowly becoming a far more serious reality. After all, in about three days we will be meeting in Atlanta to begin our trip.

Of course, there were many other preparation steps, such as preparing our families and putting their worries to rest, finishing our site and issue papers, and saying goodbye to all of our friends, but we are all excited to finally get on that plane and begin the long trip to Chennai. We will definitely have plenty of time during that plane ride to compose ourselves, get some rest, do quite a bit of reading, and prepare for the culture shock that will hit us once we step from the airport in Chennai.

Our expectations as a group are high for this trip. After all, hearing about what you will be doing for months has a way of getting you excited about actually getting to do these things. Many of us are extremely ready to get on the ground in India and begin all of our activities. We are ready for all of our hard work to pay off in the form of this exciting trip, and, speaking for all of us, we are ready to learn all that we can about the culture of India.



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