International Educator - November/December 2014 - 18

"They want to be more in tune with
themselves and understand how that is
connected with being a mental health
practitioner: if we aren't taking care of
ourselves and growing, how are we going to
be most effective working with other people?"
In addition to coming home with humorous stories
of expectations torn asunder, the students "return with
different ideas about exploring their own spirituality," says
Lindsey. "They want to be more in tune with themselves
and understand how that is connected with being a mental health practitioner: if we aren't taking care of ourselves
and growing, how are we going to be most effective working with other people?"
Although the trip includes stops at world-renowned
tourist destinations like the Taj Mahal, the real epicenter
of each trip is Vernase, a sacred Hindu pilgrimage center
on the Ganges River. Tulsi founded the nonprofit Diva
International Society for Child Care, which operates a
variety of programs around Vernase focused on people
with leprosy and developmental disabilities, education,
and an empowerment program for teenage girls. During
the first trip, the Wisconsin travelers visited it all. "We
overbooked," said Lindsey. In subsequent trips, they did
less and went deeper into the experience, interacting with
18  

INTERNATIONAL EDUCATOR N O V + D E C .14

residents at a Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa)
home for people who were homeless or dying and also
with the teens at the center for girl empowerment.
The experience "pushes students to think of how you
connect with other people without using spoken language.
We do art activities with kids and adults. We have them
teach us games. Our students have to dig into those places
where they establish connections. They have to be creative. It pushes them out of their comfort zone."
But does it also create a problem of initiating relationships and then suddenly leaving? Less so for the Indians
than the Americans, Lindsey believes. "Within Indian
culture, there is more of a here-and-now perspective,
more understanding that something may not be in place
tomorrow that is here today. We live very futuristically in
the U.S. We are promised all these tomorrows."
UW graduate Carlyn Andrew, now a practicing counselor, believes these short-term exchanges overseas can
be healthy and helpful. She said a day dancing, holding
hands, and connecting with a group of teenagers in India
was powerful and beautiful. "It parallels work we do in
counseling. It is a time-limited relationship. It is a skill to
be taught on how to engage in relationships and close it
off when it comes to an end. You can walk away saying 'I
don't know if I will see you again but this has been meaningful for me,' rather than 'see you again sometime.'" After
meeting with the girls, Andrew said, "Based on the looks
on their faces-big smiles with crows' feet in the corners
of their eyes-it was joyful in the moment."
Three months after each trip, students gather to share
presentations that demonstrate some reflection about
the experience, such as art projects or a slide show set
to music. One student made dal and chai for everyone.
Another had the group singing songs. Both Andrew and
Plonsky were struck by the pervasiveness of spirituality
in Indian culture. There is religion "in every piece of what
they do," said Plonsky. "There are small prayer areas and

SHUTTERSTOCK

"I walked into this room and met this person I had known
all my life, Tulsi Das." The immediate personal connection
they forged led to an evolving series of short (two-anda-half-week) trips to India that come with three semester
hours of graduate credit. Many of the 33 students Lindsey has taken on three separate trips to India had never
been outside the United States. Before the trip, students
prepare a presentation for their fellow travelers on a topic
they want to know more about, perhaps Indian politics or
Buddhism. Lindsey also lets students know that India can
be a tough place to travel. "I can't promise you hot water;
you won't always sleep well; you won't always find things
to eat that settle well." In fact, one train ride to Vernase
took 12 hours instead of the expected three. "In the U.S.
we have a lot of control over getting what you want and
it was difficult for people to lose that," recalled graduate
student Lisa Plonsky. "You have to have the mindset that
things are going to go wrong and you have to be flexible."

"Within Indian culture,
there is more of a hereand-now perspective, more
understanding that something
may not be in place tomorrow
that is here today.
We live very futuristically
in the U.S. We are promised
all these tomorrows."



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of International Educator - November/December 2014

International Educator - November/December 2014 - Cover1
International Educator - November/December 2014 - Cover2
International Educator - November/December 2014 - 1
International Educator - November/December 2014 - 2
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International Educator - November/December 2014 - Cover3
International Educator - November/December 2014 - Cover4
International Educator - November/December 2014 - SCover1
International Educator - November/December 2014 - SCover2
International Educator - November/December 2014 - S1
International Educator - November/December 2014 - S2
International Educator - November/December 2014 - S3
International Educator - November/December 2014 - S4
International Educator - November/December 2014 - S5
International Educator - November/December 2014 - S6
International Educator - November/December 2014 - S7
International Educator - November/December 2014 - S8
International Educator - November/December 2014 - S9
International Educator - November/December 2014 - S10
International Educator - November/December 2014 - S11
International Educator - November/December 2014 - S12
International Educator - November/December 2014 - SCover3
International Educator - November/December 2014 - SCover4
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