Tuesday, April 26, 2011

From Indiana to India

I’m not even quite sure where to begin. I’ve been here 3 days now, but we have seen and experienced so much already that I feel like I’ve been here a month…in a very good way. India is amazing, and amazingly different from any place I’ve ever been before. Even though our class spent weeks prepping and learning about the country and culture, I don’t think anything could have fully prepared us…we are truly in experiential learning mode, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Like many others, my first real experience in India began with a cab ride. At first glance, the roads appeared to be filled with complete chaos. Cars, buses, tuk-tuks, rickshaws, horse-drawn carts, camel-drawn carts, bikes, motorcycles, people, and cows were everywhere, moving in all directions. Honking filled the air, the number of lanes changed in an instant, the few traffic lights we encountered were optional at best, people crossed the street even though there didn’t appear to be a single break in traffic, and cars switched lanes with no more than a few inches of clearance. Yes, it would have been very easy to slap a “chaotic” label on India and never look deeper. Luckily, Professor Garcia prepared us to embrace self-awareness, let go of the things we thought we knew, and embrace the fact that our way of thinking simply could not be applied to such a drastically different culture. As I stared out the window, with a large bus passing just a couple inches from my nose, I realized four things. First, I didn’t feel nervous. Second, I didn’t see a single fender-bender. Third, even though the roads were more packed with cars, animals, and people than I thought possible, traffic continued to move forward at a fairly even pace. And fourth, the constant honking wasn’t the angry New York or DC style honking I was used to – people were communicating with one another! It was a beautiful thing to watch. Everything was so fluid and responsive, as it must be when so much diversity fills a single street.

Before we left for India, Professor Garcia told us that we must be flexible, and within my first few moments of being in this new country, the word took on a whole new meaning for me. I realized that even American “flexible” was different from India “flexible”. For this week, I am a stranger in a strange land, where even the little things, like sleeping and using a hairdryer, are a challenge. But being pushed outside my comfort zone has not come without its rewards. From the delicious food to the amazingly kind people to the breathtaking sites, our first three days have been filled with rich, memorable experiences. I am overwhelmingly grateful to be here, to be experiencing this place with my fellow classmates, and to be learning simultaneously from both our Kelley and IIM Lucknow faculty and staff. It is 4am for me right now (like I said, even sleeping is a challenge), and I am anxiously waiting to see what this next day holds for us. It will be adventure, without a doubt!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Global Perspective

I leave for India this Friday. And even better, I am going with a group of Kelley Direct students, faculty, and staff. I absolutely loved the two required in-residence weeks in Bloomington, and now I get to have an in-residence #3…but in a different country! I’m not quite sure what to expect, but I know it’s going to be amazing!

Kelley Direct has always been a global program in that it attracts students from all over the world, as well as integrates an international perspective into many of its classes. I have had some amazing learning experiences while interacting with classmates from India, China, Japan, and more through weekly discussion forums. But now KD is taking its global experience to a whole new level.

For this inaugural cross-cultural management class, I have spent the past 6 weeks in the KD virtual environment with 13 other students scattered throughout the country and world. Together we have explored the history of India, contemplated the effects of cultural differences on global teams, identified ways to become a more effective leader, and participated in weekly live class discussions to deepen our learning. Our professor even brought in a couple of guest speakers so that we could learn about India from an Indian and hear first-hand accounts of what it’s like to take on an expat assignment. These past 6 weeks have been enriching to say the least, and the trip to India will be our opportunity to put into practice everything we have learned up to this point.

I’ve never been to India, and I haven’t met the majority of my classmates face to face. Even so, I have absolutely no doubt that I am going to love the country and walk away with many new friends. I am ready to embark on a life-changing adventure (although I still have a lot of packing to do)!