Developing a Shared Language

From Laura Powis

The beauty of staying in a foreign place for such a long time is that, to some degree, you begin to become immune to its natural beauty. Walking through the breathtaking hills of Kotagiri is becoming such a normal part of my daily routine that I find myself almost not noticing that they are there. Almost every morning before breakfast, a group of us NFLCers don our yoga pants and running shows to embark upon speedy walks around the Keystone hill.

The view from one of our daily walks

The view from one of our daily walks

On today’s morning walk, Hope remarked that as of late, she spends more time looking at her feet than actually paying attention to the scenery. I realized that she was not alone in this practice, as I also have been spending more time examining the roads for surprise cow pies than admiring my surroundings. While it is alarming to realize that I am not always actively appreciating the beauty and quirks of this, I now understand that becoming so comfortable here has allowed me to look past the flashy features of India to really get to know the people who live here.

My time in India has made me realize that you don’t necessarily need to speak the same language as someone to develop a genuine connection with them. We Cornellians have found that over the past weeks, our relationships with the community member students have become incredibly rich. Spending almost all day, every day together, we have developed our own form of language consisting of broken English/Tamil, meaningful looks, and accentuated hand gestures through which we can communicate things that we probably couldn’t find words for if we spoke the same language. Numerous inside jokes have developed amongst our group and mealtimes are filled with laughter and smiles. As the strength of our NFLC community grows, I find that I no longer see as much of a distinction between the Cornell students and the community member students; we are an eclectic, passionate group of individuals who have come together to form our own unique family.

Samsuda being given a surprise hair do by Halammal and Eshwari

Samsuda gets a surprise hair do by Halammal and Eshwari

I think that living together has greatly facilitated the formation of our NFLC family. The dining room at Highfields (our hostel) has been the central location for our group banter. From debating the appropriate spiciness of the food we are served to teaching each other cultural dances (our cultural dance being the Macarena) to becoming each other’s hair stylists, the dining room at Highfields has become so much more than simply a place where we eat food—it is a place where we form personal bonds with people that transcend cultural divides.

Our goofy NFLC family

Our goofy NFLC family

When applying for the NFLC, I did not really know what to expect out of experience. I assumed that I would get to see beautiful places and learn incredible things, but for some reason I did not really think about the human aspect of the experience. Even if I had, I don’t think that I could have anticipated that I would form such intimate connections with the people in this program, both Keystone and Cornell alike. On that happy note, I look forward to the weeks ahead!

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