What am I taking back with me?

                  Two and a half weeks, twelve mangoes, one horse cow, and many smiles later, I have learnt a lot about myself and my communities. India has taught me a new way of thinking and a new understanding of my actions within my community.

                  Whether through the “I can” motto of the Design for Change initiative, the welcoming greetings from Lilapur, or the female empowerment at the anganwadis in Kalol, we have experienced so much positivity and a general constructive attitude towards the world. This love and affection was contagious, as the entire group’s attitude often changed. In Lilapur, our attitude shifted from feeling nervous and cautious to feeling comforted and hopeful. We were able to view the village through a different lens. We were able to see the sense of community and progress that Lilapur made over the amount of work still needed to be done. The attitude of the community and the people around us changed our attitudes to become constructive and forward-thinking.

                  I believe that Andover needs to be a more positive and constructive community. Our campus celebrates criticism and romanticizes unhappiness. Students often complain about exquisite privileges. I hope to bring home the attitude of optimism and support. Andover is a beautiful school with amazing resources, students, and culture. I hope to bring home a mindset of appreciation towards the amazing things we have and the wonderful opportunities we are presented. It is important that our community connects through love instead of cynicism, not to ignore our problems, but to recognize the privileges we have and feel content and happy with our lives.

                  Through this trip, I also learned a new meaning of what service is. I used to believe that service meant helping those less fortunate. However, I have come to realize that service is about connecting with a community and understanding its nuances. It is about meeting the needs that people face. Service requires a deep empathy with people, and not a sympathy. When you serve a community, you are making a connection between people. When you serve, you are working with people, not for people. I want to take this new definition of service home so I can truly help my community.

                  I am most helpful in my own community, since it’s the community I understand the best. The lessons I learned in India will be most important in Andover.