Whenever I travel to a new place, whether it be a new friend’s house, a new restaurant, or in this case a new country, I try my best to go in with no expectations in order to prevent myself from limiting my mind to those close-minded thoughts. Naturally, the human mind tends to always wander to preconceived notions, or “single stories,” as we learned in our week as a collective group of Experimenters in Washington, D.C. Many individuals in my hometown shared such stories about India before I left, despite the fact that they had never actually stepped foot in the country. Had I not previously reminded myself of the harm involved in trusting in these stories, I would have hesitated to jump into a leadership program in a country about which I had mostly heard negative stereotypes. I would not have been able to walk around the Lotus Temple with the 13 other students in my program in the 100 degree weather with sweat trickling down our backs. I would not have been able to sample the spiciest, most delicious food I have ever tried in my life. I would not have been able to learn traditional Indian wedding dances from my host mother while reciprocating by teaching her the “Cotton Eyed Joe.” I would not have been able to participate in a local festival celebrating the harvest of the seven grains and monsoon season. The greatest lesson that I have learned in my mere five days in India is that “single stories” are called as they are for a reason. They don’t give the full picture. We must take the initiative to rediscover and relearn what prejudices we may have in our minds in order to be able to appreciate another culture and even another human being.
Written by Sierra Tagman, Experimenter