International Experiences Unite WC Community

By Jack Despeaux
Student Life Editor

In an ever-polarizing world, it can become harder and harder for people to explore outside of their comfort zones. Madi Shenk, junior, was able to go on a life changing trip to Northern India Jan. 1 to Jan. 11. The trip was organized by Dr. Jon McCollum and Dr. John Leupold in the music department. She said the trip allowed her to experience the culture and music of a country so far from home.

Shenk said that the trip allowed her to look outside of [her] western perspective.”

The goal of the trip is to receive an in-depth understanding of the music of north India, as well as a general education on the culture of India. To do so, students visited  the cities of Varanasi, Delhi, and Agra. In Agra, students were able to visit the Taj Mahal, and in Varanasi, they were able to learn and experience the cultural importance of the ghats that lead to the River Ganges.

Shenk said she was especially moved by the Varanasi Ghats, saying that she, and senior Ben Weinstein, were taught by a local about the cultural importance of the Ganges, and the ceremonial cremations and funerals that occur at the ghats.

Students learned about the different types of musical performances in India, from kathak dancing to learning how to play different Indian instruments.

“We stuck out a lot, but people were really excited to have us there.”

Everyone was very polite, and there was a mutual interest between American students and the Indian locals regarding each other’s cultures, she said.

aaaaaaaaaShenk said that she learned to appreciate different cultures for what they are, not for their differences from one’s own culture.

Shreyas Suresh, senior, who is a WC student from Mumbai, India, agreed with Shenk.

“You do appreciate a different culture for its new things,” he said.

Suresh said that there were brand new things, but he had also had a lot of exposure to American culture already.

“Pop Tarts always come to mind,” Suresh said, when asked about what was dramatically different or new to him in America.

Suresh also said that the educational systems in America are different from India, most specifically regarding attention to attendance in America. Suresh said that this could be more of a WC policy, but that he thinks it is better to have such a strict attendance policy. The liberal arts-style of college is also new, Suresh said.

The “North India Folklife, Musical, and Cultural Heritage” trip is an ethnomusicology class that counts for four credits and can be applied towards one’s fine arts requirement.

For more information regarding the “North India Folklife, Musical, and Cultural Heritage” trip, be sure to email Dr. McCollum at, or Dr. Leuopold, at

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