By Vincent Oganwu ’17
Editor’s Note: A key part of Morgan Park Academy’s global curriculum is a week of school-wide global explorations each March, which this year included a Project Week trip to India.
This trip to India was definitely a life-changing experience. We participated in various activities ranging from traveling past the Himalayas, to seeing the Dalai Lama, visiting the Taj Mahal, and participating in service projects.
Prior to the trip, I was anxious and a bit nervous; however, I was eager to explore, learn new things, and to interact with new people! Upon arriving in India, we quickly adjusted to the new atmosphere,people, and culture. After we deplaned, I was very excited to finally be in India, after many long hours of travel. We traveled from Chicago to Zurich, then from Zurich to New Delhi.
India is a country of rich history and culture, that has evolved over the years. The cities we visited include, Agra, Amritsar, New Delhi, and Dharamsala. In all of the cities we visited, the people I interacted with were very kind and excited to see an American tourist. By talking with the Indian civilians, I was able to get a different and more relatable view on what their lives are like.
While in Agra, we visited the Taj Mahal (one of the seven wonders the world), the Jama Masjid (“Friday Mosque”), and the Agra Fort. It was beautiful seeing the unique and defying architecture and style of the Taj Mahal. Being at the Taj Mahal felt surreal. I never imagined that I would be there! Along with seeing the beautiful architecture of the Taj Mahal, it was interesting learning about the history behind its existence.
Visiting the Jama Masjid mosque was an interesting cultural experience, because it was my first time entering a mosque. Attending such a diverse school like MPA has allowed me to interact with students of various ethnicities and religions. Since I have many friends that are Muslim, both in and out of school, listening to a presentation on Islam at this mosque really enlightened my knowledge on the Islamic faith. Like the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort, the Jama Masjid mosque had a unique design. It is made of red sandstone and white marble on the ceilings.
In Amritsar, we visited the well-known Golden Temple of the Sikh religion and the Wagah border ceremony. We were fortunate enough to visit the temple at night and in the morning. Seeing the temple at night was amazing! The view was breathtaking! We toured the inside of the temple that night, and the other parts, the following morning. Here at the Golden Temple, volunteers serve over 100,000 people a day.
At the Wagah border ceremony (located at the border of India and Pakistan), it was fascinating seeing the strong patriotism from both the Indian and Pakistani citizens.
During our time in New Delhi, we visited the illustrious Lodi Gardens. Here we were able to see various eye-catching flowers and plants that we don’t see in the United Sates. Also, there was very detailed architecture in the dome-shaped buildings we saw at the front of the garden. Inside the dome enclosures were the tombs of Mohammed Shah and Sikander Lodi.
While in New Delhi we also went on the Salaam Balak Trust tour. Salaam Balak Trust is an organization that houses, teaches, and assists orphaned and run-away children. Also it helps children who are on a bad path such as doing drugs or other bad activities. Hearing the personal story of our main tour guide was very touching. Thankfully, he is on a good path in life now. It was relieving to see that there are places like Salaam Balak Trust that care about and help these children with becoming successful in the world.
Dharamsala was my favorite of all the cities we visited. This was because I enjoyed the breath-taking views of the Himalayas, staying up in the mountains, learning so much about the Tibetan conflicts with China, and the happy people and the positive energy they reflected.
Many people are unaware of the Tibetan conflicts with China, and by visiting a Tibetan museum, I acquired so much new information on the struggles and hardships that the Tibetan people have undergone during the past few years. After watching news videos and a documentary on the 2008 Tibetan protest, it’s unbelievable that I was unaware of what was going on across the world.
My favorite activities in Dharamsala were the service project and getting to see the beauty in nature while hiking up a path and walking to our service project area. Looking down from the tops of the mountains felt so serene. During the service project, we painted a playground for the kids, along with water tank cages, and tree cages for the schools.
Lastly, the service project we took part in and this trip as a whole, opened my mind to see the unfortunate situations that the children and adults live in. Although they are not as fortunate as we are, it was very touching seeing how happy and satisfied they were with what they had. This has showed me that there are much more important things to take care of around the world, than to worry about the trivial material things we worry about at home.
This trip was an educating, interesting, unforgettable, fun, and life-changing experience.
Vincent is a sophomore at Morgan Park Academy.
Want more from Global Week? Check out stories and photos from our other trips.