Sweat or Regret: Life in Chennai, India

Marc Unger ’19 is a senior political science major at Elizabethtown College. He is interested in performing arts and international affairs. While abroad in Chennai, India, he had the opportunity to serve as a BCA Study Abroad Storyteller. In this role, he wrote a blog about breaking a sweat in India!

Marc studied abroad at Madras Christian College. The college had open air classrooms, where students generally stayed in one classroom with alternating professors. Each hall had an identity and enacted traditions on the freshman class, such as dressing formally together. This process gave the halls a sense of unity. Marc lived in Selaiyur Hall, an 80 year old institution priding itself on producing gentlemen.

There were many local eateries around the College. Marc, alongside a friend, would venture to different locations and experience different flavors of the local cuisine.

Even the spiciest of flavors couldn’t get Marc to sweat as much as the local climate did. Deodorant, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a small rag have become essentials. The classrooms are all equipped with fans, although some restaurants did not have such a luxury. Even with the humidity, Marc is excited about his time in Chennai.

While in India, Marc had the opportunity to intern with the Chennai Centre for China Students (C3S), a think tank dedicated to research in and around China. Marc completed a research project, later published by the company. The project revolved around the ethnic Uyghur population in northwest Xinjiang. The paper explored Chinese influence and the implications for China’s foreign policy with Central Asia. He was then able to present his research. This project gave him valuable skills such as presenting, research and taking criticism. Marc also learned the ins and outs of office culture in India. Although some aspects of American office life can be found in India, Marc noted differences in perception of time and how peers addressed another.

Through C3S, Marc had the chance to meet the Chinese Ambassador to India when he visited the company. This, alongside the experience and connections, gave Marc a fulfilling internship. This experience gave Marc a unique and successful study abroad experience.

The success Marc achieved in his internship while abroad led him to return to India just one year later, having received a second internship. Through networking, Marc received a summer internship focusing on research on Myanmar at the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore, India.

Marc’s previous friendships, continued through the use of technology, helped Marc to settle in quickly. One of his friends even picked him up from the airport!

India’s unique culture has impacted Marc to an extent to which he feels like it is an extension of his own. He highly recommends taking a second trip to your study abroad location to offer a new experience in a place you once called home.

*Click on the hyperlinks above to read Marc’s original blog published by BCA Study Abroad on August 28, 2017. BCA no longer offers the Chennai program, so please consult our list of affiliated, semester-long programs to review our current opportunities. 

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