Williamsport graduate studies abroad in India

The majority of American college students studying abroad choose European countries – the United Kingdom and Italy being the most popular – according to the Institute of International Education.

But one Cairn University student, Seth Hunter, spent four months in India studying abroad.

“I have a desire to travel and I wanted to go somewhere different,” he said. “Overall it went really well and I learned a lot.”

After graduating from Williamsport Area High School in 2012, Hunter began attending Cairn University. When he graduates he’ll have his bachelor’s degree in bible studies and masters in organizational leadership from the Langhorne-based college.

Though he was stationed in Coimbatore, a major Indian city where he studied religion, social issues and history, Hunter traveled more than 200 miles north for an internship opportunity.

“My internship was with a company that brought groups to their campus for outdoor team building activities,” he said.

The small amount of time that Indian children and adults spend out in nature was one of the many differences Hunter observed between our two nations.

Corporate retreats are quite popular in the U.S., where company employees trek through roped courses and perform other activities with the goal of coming together as a team to accomplish tasks.

This, of course, wasn’t the only way India differed from Hunter’s homeland.

There were small things, like the frantic traffic system, the lack of air conditioning and bathing himself using a bucket and some water.

The biggest difference, though, was what Hunter described as “the absence of western individualism.”

He said that in India, everyone acts as a collective unit, it’s not about the individual.

“It’s a group culture, not an individualistic one,” Hunter said. “And strangers are welcomed into the collective, without hesitation.”

The student described a visit to a peer’s home, in which his family was hospitable to the point of discomfort.

“The guest eats first, so they all sat there and watched me eat until I was done. Then when I finished, my friend just kept adding more food. Eventually, I had to physically stop him from serving me again,” he said.

They welcomed Hunter, who was a stranger to them, into their home like he was family – an act, he says, is very common in India.

The other difference that struck him was the fact that overwhelming poverty smacked him in the face when he arrived.

“Here we have neighborhoods where poverty is collected into one area, but there are homeless and poor people in even the richest neighborhoods in India,” Hunter said. “The caste system may be illegal but it will always exist in India.”

In the end, Hunter said the experience helped expand his world view and helped him develop personally and professionally. He hopes to take this experience with him into his future career in Christian ministries.