To be completely honest, the first week of the program is a bit of a blur. The program directors were extremely welcoming and took us all around the city of Hyderabad and got us accustomed to our new lives for the semester. The culture shock of being in India after never leaving the US my whole life was actually not as bad as I had expected. I adjusted rather quickly (mostly due to all the support I received) and although I had moments of home sickness, anxiety, and missing my Amma (mother in Telugu) back home, everyone was so kind and patient with me and the questions and concerns I fired at them.
Along with the emotional adjustments, the cultural ones are just as significant. And that includes food. You guys, I don't know if you know this, but the food in India is pretty bomb. And biryani from Hyderabad is amazing. I'm talking next level stuff, here. It's funny because I never actually liked biryani before coming to India. I was a vegetarian for the past few years of my life and it always kind of felt wrong to eat vegetable biryani because it wasn't really biryani if it didn't have meat in it. Plus, it was just never that appealing to me. HOWEVER. Coming to Hyderabad I've had such good biryani that now it's my go-to meal. Going out? Biryani. Don't know what to order for lunch? Biryani. Amma making dinner? Biryani.
Another cultural adjustment was just the sheer number of people in India. There's really no such thing as personal space out here. When taking an auto to school or on the bus, or even just walking down the street people will be everywhere. But along with these people, you'll find some of the cutest babies in the entire world. And believe me when I say, brown babies are by far the cutest babies. Hands down. After a long day of exploration, we were taking a cab back to our homestays. We got caught in pretty bad traffic and as I was staring out the window enjoying the view, I noticed a family on a motorbike riding next to us. There was a mother, father, and not one, but three babies on the bike as well. So a family of five on a single motorbike. One of the little girls was smushed against her father's back and had a black hijab wrapped around her head. We made eye contact, and when I waved she gave me the sweetest, warmest smile I had ever received in my life. I couldn't stop smiling and we just kind of smiled and stared at each other for an entire minute before her family zoomed ahead. After about five minutes of inching forward in the traffic, I turn my head to see the family on the motorbike now on the opposite side of the cab. And I caught the little girl's eye and was able to wave and smile one last time before we parted ways for good. I really cannot convey how wholesome this experience was and I will never forget it for the rest of my life.
And the final cultural adjustment was the number of buffalos you casually see around the roads of Hyderabad. They're hilarious because they just kind of meander into traffic whenever they so please. It's actually really hilarious. Traffic in Hyderabad is pretty scary and always moving, but it's fun to see everything come to a grinding halt because some buffalos really couldn't care less about where you're headed and how quickly you get there.