I will be leaving in a month for Jaipur, Rajasthan, to study abroad. I'll spend the spring living with an Indian family, studying international development, and doing an internship at an NGO in or near the city. Afterwards, I may travel around India for a while with a friend. Please give me any and all advice you have about traveling and living in India.
I have lots and lots of questions.
I'm a junior in college, studying international health and social issues, and am doing this through the University of Minnesota's Studies in International Development program
. I don't yet know anything about the family I will be staying with, or exactly what my internship will entail.
What should I pack for 4-5 months in northern India? What can I buy easiest there, what will I wish I had brought with me? How am I going to want to dress? Jaipur is a pretty big city: is it going to be easy to find stuff like tampons and sunscreen and contact solution? Any books I should read before I go, or bring with me? Should I bring gifts for my host family, and if so, what?
And what about that family thing? It's part of the trip that I both dread and look forward to. What is it like to live with an Indian family? What will they expect of me, as an American coming to live with them? Will they be protective of me, as a young woman in their care? I haven't lived with a "family" since I was sixteen or so; even then it was just my mother and me and our cat. I'm used to a lot of independence and privacy and I have a feeling that this situation will take a lot of getting used to. At the same time, it'll be a great chance to develop a close relationship with some local people. I don't want to accidentally offend or upset them, although I'm sure some minor faux pas are par for the course. Any advice on that front?
What are some things I should make sure to do and see and experience during my time in India, especially considering I'll have some opportunity to travel after the program is over? Where's good to go, in May or June? By then I should be speaking some Hindi, and have a fair bit of experience with Rajasthan. I'm the sort of traveler who likes to just immerse herself in other worlds; I'm more interested in experiencing interesting places and cultures and meeting interesting people than seeing monuments.
Any general advice about living in India, for a non-Indian 21-year-old college girl from the midwest, with very little experience traveling outside the US? I've been interested in India for many years, and I know quite a lot about the country-- but it's a huge and varied and strange country, and there is so much I don't yet know. Rajasthan, or even Jaipur, specific information would be especially lovely.