Bison Abroad | On Privilege

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As I sat in the spacious Starbucks of Jubilee Hills sipping on my lemonade and staring in disgust at the mountain of notes I was slowly trying to study my way out of, I had time to reflect on my privilege.

Being an American in India should come with some fairly obvious privileges, but from experience sometimes they don’t immediately come to mind.

Let’s start with Starbucks, or better yet, the reason for me being at Starbucks in the first place — my dorm room. This isn’t necessarily a criticism of my dorm room here per say, but more to the fact that I just naturally seem to spend more time sleeping than studying if I try studying there.

Anywhere else on campus doesn’t have air conditioning and with temperatures soaring to 107 degrees Fahrenheit this past week, I was not eager to try studying without it. I felt bad thinking about how my classmates would love to have a dorm room with an air conditioning to study in. Instead, they study outside throughout the night until their rooms cool down enough to sit in.

To get to Starbucks my friends and I took an Uber, which makes it very easy to get around (although not free from crazy drivers and interesting experiences). For us American students, a $5 trip to a coffee shop half an hour away isn’t bad. In comparison to what a rickshaw or bus ticket would cost, it is substantially more expensive and in most cases includes air conditioning while other common transportation options do not.

Now we have come full circle, back to me sitting at a table cursing myself for ever registering for science courses this semester. Oh, and I was drinking a venti Hibiscus Passion Lemonade, which I feel makes me sound more like Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde than I actually am, but I can’t help it.

It’s a summer drink, it’s good, I like it, end of story.

Well, this lemonade was the same price as a meal at some places. I could have bought multiple dosas (which I love) for the same price as this lemonade that I’ll have finished an hour into a six-hour study session.

As a Study in India Program (SIP) student I also have a lot more free time than my classmates. I only took four classes (in my case two of which were run by SIP) and had three-day weekends. Meanwhile my friends from class were spending their entire weekend completing lab work on top of content heavy courses.

While I feel more a part of India now, through learning Hindi, studying and living here, I realize there are aspects of India I haven’t experienced the same as an Indian would. There will probably always be a part of Indian daily life and culture that I don’t fully understand and that is fine. I will strive to remind myself of my privilege and understand its effect on my experiences at home and abroad.

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