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Out of the US and Into the Wild

Out of the US and Into the Wild

Out of the US and Into the Wild

The first time that I remember traveling outside of the United States was in December, 2008. I was about nine years old and was visiting family in India with my parents. I did not know what to expect and what it was going to be like in India. Although I always listened to my grandmother talk about her experiences there and what it was like, putting the picture together was quite difficult.   

After the never-ending plain ride, we immediately stepped into the airport and sped through baggage pick up and customs. My cousins soon arrived to pick us up and as we drove to their house, I experienced my first culture shock. I saw a cow on the street. In fact, it was not just one but a whole herd of them. I was very amused by this and could not help but stare. In suburban New Jersey all you find on the streets are generally birds, rabbits, and squirrels.

My culture shock only grew when traveling to the smaller villages in India. My mother has family who still live in some of the less developed parts and I couldn’t help but notice some of the major differences. Everyone in the village knew each other and I noticed the sense of community. Every night after dinner, everyone sat outside on their porches and socialized. It was genuinely nice to see children playing and running around outside while the elders laughed and reminisced about old memories. Unlike in the city, seeing the stars at night was the best part.

However, with these beautiful aspects of culture and lifestyle, also came some of the negativities.  Almost everyone traveling to a developing country for the first time will notice the poverty. Of course poverty exists everywhere but you just don’t see it much in Suburban New Jersey.  Either way, seeing children and adults chanting up and down the streets begging for change was one of the hardest hit factors of the trip.

I was extremely shocked since I have seen nothing similar to this before. I learned to be thankful for what I had and that there really are less fortunate people out there. It actually encouraged me to learn about poverty across the world and donate to causes such as The Smile Train. I started to watch various documentaries on global issues and different cultures. That is how my interest sparked in becoming a journalist, studying international relations, and helping philanthropic causes.

These are just some of the things that I found absurd when traveling out of the country for the first time. At nine years old, I was not aware about different parts of the world and how these simple aspects differ depending on geography and culture.  In addition, in 2008, not everyone had smartphones yet and I did not use the internet much. Therefore, I was quite oblivious to these factors and believe that a child traveling for the first time in 2015 might not experience the same type of shock. The world has grew so much smaller since we are all connected through social media, news, and other internet sources no matter where in the world we are. With the massive breakthrough in technology, people are increasingly becoming more aware of regional issues and different traditions throughout the world.


Anjali Patel is a high school student from New Jersey who’s livin’ life. She writes and formats for her school newspaper and literary magazine. In addition, she is the student council class treasurer and consistently volunteers for a local food pantry. 


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