University of Washington Bothell students approach the CUTS library for a tour, September 2017
Arriving at the University was a huge relief, I had just flown in from Dubai the night before, having accidentally missed my flight. Waiting at the airport from Mumbai to Varanasi, I was worried because I needed Wi-Fi in order to communicate with my professors and group that I was traveling abroad with. Not knowing how to get to the University, or where people were, I was worried about the language barrier. Tensions were quickly relieved as I exited the airport, a sign with my name on it was being held by a young man who was my taxi driver. We chatted and talked about so many things from cremation ceremonies held at the ghats on the river ganges, to buddhism, to music, to girlfriends, and even some politics! I tipped him generously not knowing he had already been paid, but was happy, he deserved it.
UWB students attend CUTS lectures on Buddhism in an exchange program,
This concept of generosity was as I learned from the next day’s lecture a virtuous act considered by buddhist monks and professors. Sitting in the University blew my mind, here I was next to Tibetan students being lectured by a Buddhist Monk in India who has a doctorate degree. Only one day ago I was celebrating Eid Mubarak with Muslims from France in the United Arab Emirates. I had experienced a huge cultural, and religious contrast in 3 continents in 3 days. Needless to say I can brag I evaded jetlag, yet admit I fell ill with culture shock nearly immediately. At first we were all complaining about how there was no wifi, the streets were filled with trash, and how the food sucked. But within such a short time, we had come to learn more and more about what the Tibetan students believed in, their stories, and how they lived. A main motivator of mine to come to India was believed it or not, not to just add pictures to my portfolio, but to step outside my comfort zone and create relationships with people to better understand others, and the world holistically in relative to education forms. What also came to me as a shock, was I traveled halfway across the world to meet different people, only to discover that we were much more similar, than different. Tam and I went out one morning before breakfast to explore the campus, and found a water tower. We climbed up to get a birdseye view of the Universities sports field, empty.
Tam exploring CUTS campus
Later that day, the field was far from empty, in fact it was booming with action! Monks were battling it out on the basketball court, kicking the soccer ball, playing badminton etc. They challenged us Americans to basketball and we had a brawl! It was a truly amazing experience to be around so many people all playing games together, a sense of unity, and interdependence rich in community engagement.
UWB and CUTS duked it out in basketball, and were exhausted!
Our final lesson was on emotional intelligence, mind training, and impermanence. The discussion was held impromptu and couldn't have been more intellectually stimulating. The chancellor was wise, charismatic, and a great orator with a wealth of knowledge on Buddhist frameworks that mesh well with modern science and a global world.
Our final day, we spent with the Vice Chancellor from Cuts