An India gap year with Project Trust is a lesson in just how rich and varied different cultures and lifestyles can be. India’s vast stretch of regions, and huge population, are home to an array of foods, languages, religions and customs, and even after 12 months here there will still be more to learn and new things to experience.
Hindi and English are the official languages of India, with many children learning English as a second language. As a native or fluent English speaker you can be a massive help to the provision of English in the school you are volunteering in. Your extra-curricular interests, enthusiasm and hard work will be greatly valued in the community you are living in.
As an India gap year Volunteer you get six weeks of holiday around April and May when schools pretty much stop because things get too hot. This gives you a fantastic opportunity to see a vast amount of the country. In the past this has involved Volunteers being extras in Mumbai Bollywood films, trekking through the deserts on camels in Rajasthan, visiting the Taj Mahal, going to the Ganges and stopping in for tea at Darjeeling.
Living and working in India for a year is a really unique opportunity to get below the surface of this complex and diverse culture. Initially it is easy to be overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of your new community, as well as the many and varied delicious foods. However your host communities are extremely welcoming and very hospitable. They are always keen to show you around and help you to become acclimatised to eating with your hands, or learning how to put on a sari.
India is a fascinating country and with a population of over one billion, hugely diverse in terms of people, language and culture. The fourth largest economy in the world, yet in terms of its people’s living standards the contrasts could not be more extreme. In the major cities you will find shopping malls in which you can access all the shops you would find at home, whilst the poverty at the other end of the spectrum can be incredibly shocking.
Currently the India projects span five states; Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu in the south of the country and Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh in the north. The majority of the projects are in Andhra Pradesh, near Hyderabad, Telangana. There are two projects in the lively centre of Hyderabad, one three hours to the south and three projects around the town of Ongole, south east towards the coast and the Indian Ocean. Although Hyderabad is famous for its technology industry, the state’s economy is predominantly agricultural with the majority of the population living in rural, subsistence communities.
The coastal area is frequently hit by cyclones while further inland the Deccan plateau is a drought prone area. Tamil Nadu is much the same except tea sales make up the majority of the economy, it doesn’t suffer from drought and the climate in the hills is much cooler. Chennai is the state capital of Tamil Nadu and from there flights and trains run to Hyderabad. Towards the north lies Gujarat, where we operate a project three hours west of Ahmedabad, the state capital. Lying to the east of Gujurat is Madhya Pradesh, with the capital city Indore two hours north of Maheshwar, where there is another project.
In terms of accommodation , Volunteers usually share a room close either at their project or close by, but all Volunteers have their meals prepared them. Most will have easy access to wifi, or will be able to buy affordable data packages.
India Volunteers will need to be should be sensitive, adaptable and willing to take on responsibility.
You will need to be enthusiastic and motivated to teach TESOL. English is seen as important for India to succeed on a local and global scale, especially important in a country when there are so regional languages are spoken in India , and English is the seen as the a third language in most states.
If you have any additional skills (such as sports or music ) there is opportunity at some projects to set up clubs, teams and extra-curricular activities, It can be a challenge as success is very much measure by academic achievement in Indian society.
You will have so many opportunities to learn about religion, castes, food, dance – as young people living and working in India you will inevitably be invited to take part in a wide range of social and cultural events. Volunteers this year have been to traditional Weddings, Funerals, Naming Ceremonies. All very eye opening and colourful, and usually centred around feasting.
Living in India will open your eyes to so many differences, the country’s long and fascinating history along with its race to modernity and development cannot fail to grab your interest and imagination.
Your long holidays in April/May will give you an opportunity to travel across this vast country, travelling on the amazing transport system, visiting iconic historic monuments and sacred sites. Volunteers have the chance to experience a hugely variety of landscapes, from mountains to beaches and everything in between.
Fra Macintyre | Sri Lanka 93/94Country Coordinator for India
Fra is a Returned Volunteer from Sri Lanka (93/94) and has been in the staff team for a number of years. Fra has been back to Sri Lanka a number of times to visit Volunteers and to see new projects, and this year had the opportunity to familiarise herself with the India programme.