By Chief Petty Officer Vivian Dees, NSCC
F.D. Roosevelt Squadron, Jacksonville, Fla.
International Exchange Program, India
Ten days. Seven countries. 8,647 miles. This was the Indian experience.
We stayed on TS Jawahar in Mumbai, India alongside cadets from India, Hong Kong, Canada, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and South Africa. Each morning consisted of a different nation's PT traditions, and meals were served both continental and Indian.
Split into four teams, we spent our first days learning how to pull and paddle in a straight line (a significantly more difficult feat than one would imagine). Our nights were spent learning about our respective sea cadet programs. Petty Officer 1st Class Chloe Caso, Chief Petty Officers Alex Mueller and Tracy Robinson, and myself could not be more thankful for the opportunity to spend that time alongside sea cadets from all over the world.
One of the most exciting days of the exchange was the India Day celebration. All of the exchange cadets wore traditional Indian clothes, and enjoyed a performance by the Indian Sea Cadet Corps, consisting of dances from different regions of India. The incredible vibrancy of Indian culture was unlike anything I've ever seen.
My time in India has not only given me the experience of a lifetime, but has taught me what I love about my own country. In school, I am grateful that I sit amongst people of all shapes, sizes, and colors. The subject of race is less daunting now, and has become incredibly significant in my perception of the world around me. India truly emphasized for me that human life is beautiful, no matter your race, gender, religion, or nationality.
India is a vastly different place than the U.S. This may seem obvious, but to feel the jungle humidity, watch the sun rise over the Arabian Sea, sink your toes into the sands of the Subcontinent, or immerse yourself in a culture whose roots extend through a millenia, can change the words "vastly different" to "wow."