Singer Goes Abroad: India Edition

Navigate Left
Navigate Right
  • Emmaline Singer had two host sisters during her stay in India. Singer became very close to her host sisters and still stays in contact with them.

    Photo Submitted by Emmaline Singer

  • Emmaline Singer celebrates her birthday with her host family. Singer enjoyed being able to have a special evening full of food and fun that was similar to how she had always celebrated birthdays.

    Photo Submitted by Emmaline Singer

  • Singer lived in Maharashtra during her time in India.

    Photo Submitted by Emmaline Singer

Navigate Left
Navigate Right

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

Riding along the road, she is hit with a wave of culture shock.  A mass of tiny shacks constructed out of a modge-podge of tarps, metal, brick, and scrap materials lines the roadside. A line of occupants stand along the road watching the vehicle pass by. Clothing of all colors hangs off the side of the houses and children scurry around playing with whatever object they seemed to find around their home. As she continues to her final destination, she can see this is no longer her comfortable home in Kentucky, and her mind starts to wander. What’s going to happen? What will I see? Where will I go?  These are just a few of the questions that senior Emmaline Singer had as she began her seven weeks in Pune, India, learning the Hindi language and immersing herself in its foreign culture.

Singer was one of the select few to be chosen for the prestigious National Security Language Initiative for Youth program, or NSLI-Y. This program, funded by the US Department of State, began in 2006 and grants scholarships for high school students to attend summer and academic year overseas immersion programs. There are eight options for languages to study, which include Arabic, Hindi, Indonesian, Korean, Chinese (Mandarin), Persian (Tajiki), Turkish, and Russian.

Singer first found out about the program through our school’s gifted and talented teacher, Mrs. Katie Booth. Singer wanted something intriguing to do over the summer, and loved the fact that it was an opportunity for free travel.

Singer chose to study the Hindi language, because she had always wanted to travel to India. She said, “I had never been out of the country before, and India had always been a country I wanted to visit.” Why India? Singer explained, “I was interested, because I love Indian food, and I have always wanted to visit, and I thought this would be a great chance to travel there.”

Being in a new environment for so long can be frightening, but having familiar sights from home helped Singer adjust to life in India. India managed to take fast food in America and make their own version. Singer commented, “I also got to eat at a lot of American places. I thought it would help with my homesickness, which was interesting because they didn’t taste like home. At all. I had Subway, McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, Dominos, and Chili’s when I was there. My favorite Indianized American food was the McSpicy Paneer from McDonald’s.”

Pullquote Photo

The most beneficial thing to come from this experience was definitely the friendships I built, both with the Americans on my trip, and the friends I met in India. I gained a lot of empathy just through learning about how others lived.”

— Emmaline Singer

One of the best parts about living fully in the culture is taking part in wholly authentic events, and Singer was able to experience numerous cultural events during her stay.  However, her fondest, completely Indian moment was attending an Indian wedding. She explained, “It was really neat. American weddings have nothing on Indian wedding. It was so elaborate and so expensive. The rituals last for days, so we were only able to attend one of the ceremonies.”

Singer also used her time in India to teach English to local children, which was one of her favorite activities. She said, “Every Friday, we visited a local, underprivileged school to help the kids with their English studies. The three girls I helped became my friends, and we still talk in our WhatsApp group chat to this day. My nickname was “Didi” which means older sister, so I thought that was really sweet.”

Through the NSLI-Y program, Singer lived with a host family whom she became very close to. One of her favorite memories of her time with her host family was celebrating her birthday. Emmaline found that the way birthdays are celebrated in America and India are very similar. “They took me to a restaurant called Barbecue Nation for my dinner, and it had five different buffets,” she said. “Then they threw me a huge birthday party at our apartment, and invited everyone in my program and their host siblings.”

While her time in India is over, her memories remain.  She still stays in contact with the friends she made, and she was able to appreciate improving her language skills during her seven week stay . Back home, Singer’s life is quite busy, where she sings, acts, works at a law firm, and enjoys playing the piano, among other things.  

Although Singer hasn’t had many opportunities to practice her Hindi skills in America, she does remember a lot of the language. The language skills, however, is not what she found to be most significant about this experience. Instead, Singer loved being able to build relationships with new people that she had never expected to develop before her trip. She stated, “The most beneficial thing to come from this experience was definitely the friendships I built, both with the Americans on my trip, and the friends I met in India. I gained a lot of empathy just through learning about how others lived.”