Inly alumna, Megan Reilly ’11, recently went on a trip to India with a group of students. Read about the experience in her own words below:
My time in India was a life-changing experience. I had only traveled outside of the United States to Europe and the Caribbean, which are both very different from India.
I spent two weeks in India during my spring break this year. I traveled with a group of 14 other students to take part in service work and immerse ourselves in the culture. I really wanted this experience to widen my world view.
I was overwhelmed by the beauty in the deep roots of culture and the radiant happiness of the people. The country couldn’t be more diverse. We arrived in a modern-style airport then spent almost a full day on a bus and looked at the world around us through windows. We then spent time in a hotel before journeying out into the Thar desert for five days.
I learned so much about myself and the culture of India in the desert. The people there are very much still in the ways of what we westerners may consider the past. Women’s rights were one of the biggest issues there that we faced.
As a young woman, I was incredibly affected by what I saw. Women in the villages were almost always in arranged marriages and many of the children were married off as young as two. Many of the women there did not have an education past second grade. I was shocked to be asked many times “How many children do you have?” or “How long have you been married?” The women were equally shocked at my answer—that I wasn’t married and didn’t have any plan to be married in the foreseeable future.
As more access to information and opportunities is becoming available, the future for these women and their future generations is changing. Educated women give back 90% of their resources to their communities. Giving other women more opportunities and freedoms doesn’t just benefit them but the community as a whole.
All the projects we worked with were about not just putting on a band aid like in a charity situation but creating a sustainable and lasting change. These changes are all beneficial and help to make a better future for not just that one person or village but for the country as a whole. One things leads to another. Every action can make a difference. The power of just a smile broke cultural and language barriers.
Some many universal things reminded me of our commonalities as humans rather than our differences in culture. I realized how much an education could change the lives of these people and how much I had been impacted by my own education. Education is really the key is these situations because once people know they have a chance and they deserve it, there is no stopping them.
India is a land of new chances, rebirth but also of ancient tradition. I was so empowered on this trip and enlightened me spiritually that I can’t wait to revisit and to keep up with the country’s news in the meantime.
The best part of my trip was the amount of joy I felt from the people as well as the beauty that radiated from everything we saw. I love the culture so much and cannot sum up in words how amazing this experience was.
So much of the learning that I was able to apply to this journey was from my time at Inly—both in the classroom and outside the classroom during experiential learning. Being open-minded to every bit of the journey was probably one of the most important things I learned at Inly School. Inly also sparked my desire to understand more and learn as much as I can from every experience. Inly really inspired my love for education at a young age and has helped to keep me self-motivated in the long term.
I really saw the impact of people’s actions while in India and the trip inspired me to want to make a difference in people’s lives one day.
Recently I have been finding my voice more, especially during debate class at my school, and I have considered becoming a politician. Coming back from this trip helped me see how much teachers make a difference. Having a good teacher who is always encouraging you, even when you want to give up, can make a world of difference. I thought about the teachers I had at Inly and the teachers I’ve had in high school since and how they have all changed my life. I want to do that someday for someone else and I’m also really considering becoming a teacher. Some people say one person can’t make a difference but there’s a story that I often repeat that always makes me feel better.
A little boy was throwing little objects into the ocean. A man approached and noticed the objects were starfish. “Why in the world are you throwing starfish in the ocean?”
“If the starfish are still on the beach when the tide goes out and the sun rises high in the sky, they will die,” replied the boy.
“This is ridiculous!” said the man. “There are thousands of starfish on this beach. You can’t really believe that what you’re doing is making a difference!”
The boy picked up another starfish, threw it in the water and said, “It made a difference to that one.”
Whenever I get overwhelmed with the problems in the world, I realize that I have a lot more than power than I realize. I can either sit around and complain about how things never change or I can get up and change them. I’m choosing to get up and change them.