Getting Ready

It is so exciting to be preparing a fourth group of pre-service teachers for their Indian educational experience in Bangalore. Since 2013, twenty students have taken advantage of this enriching opportunity and this year thirteen more will discover the taste of dosas and fresh lime soda, feel the pulse of India in their first rickshaw ride, learn to drape a sari and see their hands become the canvas for a henna tattoo artist. But, most importantly, these thirteen students will become part of a community of learners at Vidyashilp Academy, Delhi Public School North, Delhi Public School South, and AECS Magnolia Maaruti Public School. They will bring their passion and enthusiasm for teaching and learning into schools that have embraced and nurtured our young educators. MU students Elizabeth Best, Sarah Bippen, Laura Johnson, Abby Jozwiakowski, Kayla Kightlinger, Courtney Kreb, Chrissy Moore, Ollie Naeger, Kacy Thurman, Taylor Warren, Madeline Small and KU student Thompson Deufel have been preparing for their journey. They have applied for visas and through that process experienced and overcome some of the hurdles of global mobility for students. They participated in pre-departure orientations and have begun communicating with their host principals.  We look forward to seeing how this year’s group takes ownership of their India experience as they grow in professionalism, cultural adaptability and friendship over their six-week residency in Bangalore. I am sure they’ll soon discover what previous cohorts called “whendia:” Those enchanting and unique moments that only surrendering to all that India has to offer can provide. Namaste!




A Letter to Future Participants

There are a few things I would do differently if I was lucky enough to go to Bangalore again.  In an effort to help prepare the the next streak of tigers, I’ve put together this list of recommendations as you plan for the amazing journey ahead of you.  They’ll tell you, “nothing can prepare you for India”.  This shouldn’t be mistaken for, “don’t prepare for India”.  There are definitely things you can do here that will make your time there far more enjoyable.  Here’s what I came up with:

1.Read past participant’s blog posts

For obvious reasons, I have to start the list with this one.  There have been quite a few participants at this point so it might be a good idea to ask Gabrielle which ones would be of most help to someone preparing for their first trip.  Better yet, get coffee with a past participant in Columbia.  I know anyone from the 2016 trip would be happy to reminisce.  I did this with the legendary Rachel Newman and I’m so glad I did.

2. Communicate with your school

I can’t recommend this enough.  On your first day of school, if not before, exchange email addresses with your host teacher and use it.  Come with a clear idea of what you want out of your school experience and communicate that to the teacher(s).  Don’t be afraid to ask to lead lessons.  Not every teacher is going to invite you to take charge.  You may have to just jump in there when you feel comfortable. And don’t be afraid to fail.  No first lesson is perfect anyway.  I bombed on an eighth grade math lesson in which I got half way through Einstein’s proof of the Pythagorean theorem, and then forgot how to finish it.  I was super embarrassed, but the students didn’t care at all.  They were really understanding and encouraging.  Remember, they want to see how you teach as well as showing you how they teach.

3. Pack light

Don’t shop for this trip at home.  Seriously, you can get everything you will need in Bangalore just walking distance from Casa for, with the exception of electronics, less than half the price you would pay in the US.  It’s not hard to find quality name brand clothing and supplies between Brigade Rd, Lifestyle mall, Garuda mall, and many more. It is not nearly as primitive a place as most of us imagined.  Save your money and shop in India.

One thing I HIGHLY RECOMMEND buying as soon as possible is a power surge protector.  Mine and Liz’s laptops both crashed due to a power surge during the second week in Bangalore.  Power surges are common in India and since it affects the motherboard, there is no fixing it.  Luckily, we were able to retrieve the data, but the computers were toast.  You can buy one of these strips at Reliance Digital near IKC.  Really wish I had known this ahead of time… you’re welcome.

4. Get an Indian Sim

The Internet at Casa sucks; be warned. And there’s no nearby place with free wifi.  The wifi at most of the schools isn’t reliable either, but you can connect using the computer labs. My solution? My Galaxy S4 has an easily removable back plate so replacing my US AT&T sim with an Indian sim was simple and very cost effective. Contract free, I was able to purchase 1 gig of 3g/4G data for under 300 INR ($5). I used Whatsapp and Facebook messenger to text. Go with Vodaphone or Airtel as they have the best coverage all over India. There is a shop down the street from Casa to do all this. Just make sure you contact your current service provider, unlock your phone, and put a hold on your US account before leaving the states. This process varies slightly between carriers and phones, but here’s a good guide which should point you in the right direction. Unfortunately, I was not able to set up a wifi hotspot with the Indian sim 😦

5. Stay in India

Not forever. But, if you can, please do travel or work at an NGO after the program. You will learn a lot from the 6 weeks in Bangalore, but Bangalore is only a tiny slice of India, and admittedly, one of the most westernized parts. India is a backpackers dream, especially the Himalayas. Explorers from all over the world come here. I’m currently typing this in Leh, Ladakh in Jammu & Kashmir where I have made many friends, none of whom are from the US.  I started alone in Delhi, but I haven’t been alone since.  I made friends with a guy from Kerala and a girl from Japan at Zostel in Delhi, who were also headed North.  Then we met some guys from Germany and hopped from village to village in Himachal Pradesh, staying in a new guest house or hostel every night for about 2 weeks.  When the others had to go home, I broke off and caught a bus to Leh.  I ran out of money a little sooner than expected so I decided to join a free Vipassana 10-day silent meditation.  It’s been a truly eye-opening experience.  India is a diverse, fascinating, stimulating, and spiritual place and I fear that if you don’t take advantage of this opportunity to see more than just Bangalore, you will miss out on a lot of what makes India India.

Happy journeys!


A Short Note for the Parents, Teachers, and Students of AECS Magnolia 7-28-16

Dear Magnolia,Wow. It has definitely been a whirlwind of experiences teaching in your school. I feel like not long ago Taylor, Kayla and I were taking our first steps on our first day of school there. At first, it was chaos. Sound seemed to come from everywhere and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t overwhelmed all the time. We eventually settled into a routine and found our niche in the school. Talking with the teachers in between classes was so wonderful and everyone was so kind and welcoming. Rekha made and brought me some crazy delicious idli with ghee and sugar! Saumya invited us over to her house and to plays at a local theatre. I was asked at least twice after lunch if I had lunch, whether it was good, and if it was too spicy. All of the teachers were so sweet and made sure I had what I needed. They all worked so incredibly hard on putting their parents day performance together and it showed!

The students at Magnolia are something else entirely! The students are so eager to learn and they are never afraid to ask questions which is something you don’t always find. Their curiosity about the world is so encouraging and I know that all of these kids are going to do such great things in the world. My 5th grade class will always have a special place in my heart as the first class I taught in my life and I will never forget their patience.

Of course these students wouldn’t be who they were without their parents encouraging them and helping them along the way. It is nice to see parents so involved in their student’s school and I thank them for allowing me to teach their amazing children.

Magnolia is such a wonderful school and I really am thankful that I was placed there. These past few weeks in the school will stay in my memory forever.

With love,


Saying Goodbye…

Our trip is coming to end. I am writing this as I lay on the bed in a hotel in Delhi. Only a few hours until we leave and head to the airport and head back to The States. It is bittersweet because I miss my family and friends and I am excited to start student teaching but I am so sad because I already miss my students at Vidyashilp. I had such a great time in Bangalore and this trip was life changing. I learned so much about myself and who I want to be as a teacher. I will be forever grateful to everyone who made it possible to come on this trip including Mr. and Mrs. Smith, my parents, and my grandma. I will also be attached to Bangalore for my whole life. They truly have a piece of my heart now and I am so happy I got to come here at this point in my life.

Our last week was jam packed with things to do and classes to see. Everyday at school I was running around the whole time trying to make it to every class I could possibly get to. Many of the kids would come up to me and tell me that I hadn’t been to their class yet and they knew it was almost time for me to go home. I had to explain to them that I had limited time and I wouldn’t be able to make it to every class but I would miss each and everyone of them. I did the best I could but I realized I would not be able to be in five places at once.

13900241_10210611235623046_5533549813361914187_nOn the last day we started with an assembly where Liz and I got to speak. I wrote a letter to the student body and I was able to read it to everyone. It was hard to read it to everyone because I was a little choked up. When I read the letter it became more real and it hit me that I was actually leaving. After the assembly I went to the aerobics class that I usually go to. The girls and I became very close over the six weeks and they threw us a party with cake and chips and everything! A few of the girls made a puppet show and solo dances to perform for us. It hit me right in the heart. Several of th
e girls I’m closest with, Avika, Kinishka, and 13935039_10210611209462392_2011604437246417880_nPaulak, in the aerobics class started balling when I read my thank you letter to their specific class and it really got me.  Paulak, one of the girls who I have been with since day one, got me a book. In fact the amount of presents, notes, and candy I got from the students was overwhelming. It made me realize how much I can make an impact in such a short amount of time. It made me feel so special and appreciated which is interesting because it’s exactly the same way I feel about all of them. By the end of the day I was emotional and did not want to say my final goodbyes. But the time came anyways and I gave my last hugs to my kiddos, teachers, and Selvi.

13913841_10210632040703160_6504738208173247735_oWe didn’t have a lot of time to be sad though because we had to finish packing and the next morning we flew to Delhi! Today we saw the Taj Mahal: one of the seven wonders of the world. It was a scorcher but it was incredible. The history behind is so interesting to me. I can’t even put into words how breathtaking it was, and not just because of the heat! It is all marble, and symmetrical besides when the Kings tomb was added when he died. The precision it would take is unfathomable. It took two years to plan what it was going to be and twenty-two years to build. The original plan was to have the white Taj on one side of the river and a black Taj on the other side of the river: one for the wife and one for the husband. It did not work out but we are left with one of the most amazing pieces of architecture in the world. After seeing it, it is no surprise it is considered one of the seven wonders. It was a very unique experience and I am so glad I got to end my trip with some of my best friends seeing such a wonderful sight.


Thank everyone who kept up with my blog and followed my journey. It means so much to me to share this with other people.

My journey to Missouri begins,


Until next time

My time here in India has flown by, I cannot believe tomorrow is my last day at Vidyashilp Academy and Bangalore.  The saying “time flys when you’re having fun” is true, I am not ready to leave my community here.  Leaving Vidyashilp will be one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in my life.  I have built a community from my wonderful mentors, the students, staff, culture and Selvi ma’am I have felt at home here.  I knew from the first day at Vidyashilp that this school would have a major impact on my life much more than I could have ever asked for.  Everyday here I have been reminded why I love what I do.

Before coming on the teach abroad trip the only experience I had in a classroom was minimal.  I had only experienced from the past year only doing sixteen hours of observing.  I was nervous not knowing what I was getting myself into not ever teaching before this trip.  Ever since the first day I have been welcomed with open arms by everyone at Shilp.  I will miss everything about Vidyashilp from the lunches to walking down the hallway having fifteen students ask me if I was coming to their class today.

The most important lesson I am going to take from my time at Vidyashilp Academy is the teacher-student relationship. The teachers at Vidyashilp are mother figures in the school. The teachers do not only care about the students education but their well-being as well. The teachers I have observed and worked with at Shilp want the best for all their students. I personally think that Shilp teachers do a great job of balancing seriousness, love, fun, excitement and discipline. In my future classroom I want that perfect balance. Shilp classrooms have roughly 35-40 students in each classroom. The teachers make sure that all the needs are met of every child. I admire this from the teachers being able to accommodate to 40 children in one hour lesson, very impressive. The teachers are Shilp are the teachers I strive to be in student-teaching and my future career. I cannot wait to be able to take the bound and respect I have learned between the teacher and student at Shilp and apply it in the near future.

Going into Shilp I was placed in the 1-5 standard classrooms…primary education. I am studying to be a middle school social studies teacher therefore I will teacher older students 6-8, I was not so sure about being place in elementary for the past six weeks at first. However, I am so glad that I got the opportunity to experience elementary. I found out that elementary the students are so affectionate and want to please you as a teacher always. As children get older that is not so much the case. If I ever got the chance to teach elementary again I would for sure take up the opportunity. I thank Vidyashilp for pushing me out of my comfort zone, now I know so many different options I have as an educator with what grades I would like to teach. I did have to chance to get close to some sixth standard students making me still be in love with the age that I want to be teaching. Sixth grade would be my ideal age to teach when I graduate, they are still affectionate towards you, and exciting students to be around but they can be independent.

I have spent time reflecting on my experience teach abroad in India. Selvi Ma’am stressed how important it is to take time to reflect every single day, seeing what you did good, what wasn’t so good and how you can always improve. After my time in India, I have realized that I would prefer younger ages to teach such as fifth, sixth or seventh. I also found out that being in the EVS Department at Shilp I would not mind teaching social studies or science. I love both subjects and have learned so much from the teachers how to incorporate activities in social studies and science. I could still see myself later in my career teaching 8th-12th grade however, the students at Shilp have brought me so much happiness that I want to stick with lower secondary grades for now.

Vidyashilp has taught me so much about myself and me as a future educator. I have started to notice little things how India and Shilp have changed me but I think I will really find out when I get back in the states and reflect more on my experience.

The most difficult part of these past six weeks was my last day at Vidyashilp. I cried twice. Leaving something that had made a huge impact on your life is hard to leave when you are not ready to leave. I wasn’t saying a goodbye to the teachers, students, and Selvi; I was saying a see you later because I will be coming back and visiting India in the future. There is no way possible I won’t be able to stay away from India. I have fell in love. In love with the culture, the people, the values, and education system.

me and kinishka

To my…

Fifth standard class C, I will miss your unconditional love, enthusiasm and dedication. I am so grateful I got the chance to know and teach every single one of you. I will miss you all dearly and will stay in touch.

Aerobics fourth and fifth standard class, I will miss your joyful little faces, excitement and making me embarrass myself everyday dancing with you girls. You girls have some serious moves. Keep up the great work and I am sure you will all do amazing during your performance.

Art class eleventh and twelfth standard, I will miss being able to see your outstanding art work everyday. I cannot wait to see the portrait you all are doing of me. I wish the best to every single one of you in the future. Thank you for allowing me to get to know you all.

vidyashilp evs department

Vidyashilp I will miss you all, it is a see you later not a goodbye. I will keep in touch.

Until next time,

Much love Liz

Until next time, India!

Friday morning we flew from Bangalore to Delhi and then took a 6 hour bus ride to Agra. We left Casa for the airport at 10am and did not make it to Agra until 10:30pm! A very long day of travel. It felt weird saying goodbye to Casa, our home for the past 6 weeks. We woke up really early on Saturday morning to go to the Taj Mahal. And my first thought that morning when I stepped outside was not about how excited I was to see one of the seven wonders of the world- but how incredibly hot it was! Bangalore’s temperature was very mild and pleasant, normally 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit at night. But wow, Agra’s weather made a St. Louis summer (which we all know is unbearable) look appealing! I don’t think I would have survived 6 weeks in Agra. Within the first ten minutes of arriving at the Taj Mahal we were all drenched in a sweat that made us look like we had just stepped out of the shower. But it was all worth it when we laid eyes on the Taj Mahal!

They were doing some repair work on the minaret towers but it did not take away from the overwhelming beauty of the mausoleum. After taking many pictures of the outside we got to go to take a look of the Taj Mahal on the inside. Our tour guide told us the story of how the Taj Mahal was built. The tomb was built as a symbol of love for the Mughal King’s favorite wife after she died. The King’s love can be seen in everything from the smallest detail of carvings marble to the inlaid gems and stones.The whole experience was breathtaking and surreal. After the Taj Mahal, we went and visited Agra Red Fort where the royal family had stayed. This is where the King who built the Taj Mahal and his family lived. We drove back to Delhi and checked into a hotel for a couple hours to shower, nap, and eat dinner before we left for the airport at 1 am. We flew 4 hours from Delhi to Abu Dhabi. And then a 16 hours from Abu Dhabi to Dallas. Even though I made it home, it took my suitcase another day to make it back. I was just happy it got lost on the way home instead of the way there! It was so good seeing my family. I hadn’t realized how much I missed them!

It’s been a little weird adjusting back to life at home. There is no endless honking or traffic, I can’t barter for the price of things, and I can pet every dog I see. Bangalore is my second home and I will always miss it. But it is good to be back home with my friends and family. Thank you to Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Girish, Gabrielle, my parents, and everyone who made this trip possible. I really have had the best experience. I’m excited to take back all that I have learned to my future classroom! I’ve made relationships that hopefully will last a lifetime and India will always hold a very special place in my heart. Goodbye for now India, I will see you again someday.


All Good Things Must Come to an End

After saying goodbye to the schools, the next farewell would be to India. India started out as such a foreign exotic place to me. At the beginning of this journey I felt like an outsider looking in when it came to assimilating into Indian culture. However, now I can say that India truly holds a special place in my heart and I consider it to be a second home. Bangalore had become such a haven for us and it was sad to say goodbye as we headed out to see one of the seven wonders of world. We left the comfort we’d settled into in Bangalore and headed to the far north.
Our goal of this journey was to get to see the Taj Mahal, despite the unbearable heat of the northern part of India, we were still determined to make this goal a reality. We left the comfort of our air conditioned bus to enter the gates of the Taj Mahal. Nadeem, our tour guide briefed us on some history of this monument before entering. The Taj Mahal is actually a tomb built for an Indian king’s beloved wife who died during child labor. This monument was so extravagant it took twenty two years to build and nearly bankrupt the empire. I could go on about the fascinating history of this historic monument, but I’ll wrap it up by saying the story behind the Taj Mahal’s creation is nothing short of fascinating.
I’ll never forget when we turned the corner to go through gate that leads to the Taj Mahal. It absolutely took my breathe away and the beauty of the monument and it’s surroundings can not be put into words. Between the white marble tower, pristine blue pools and impeccable grounds, it is a sight I will not soon forget. After an obligatory photo opp with this gorgeous scenery, we headed into the Taj Mahal. As it is a resting place, guests are asked to keep their voices quiet and refrain from photography as a sign of respect. Inside the Taj Mahal is the tomb of the late King and Queen in the center of this miraculously ornate room below an ornate chandelier. The sight gave me chills and it was incredible to be so close to history. The inside is lavished with the most expensive and exquisite gem stones money could by in the 1600s. The king chose these because when then moon hits them at night it makes them glow which would illuminate this mausoleum.
I still get chills writing about this experience because it was so unbelievable. Never in my life did I think I would find myself at the Taj Mahal. Being at this incredible monument was such a culminating moment for this entire experience for me. This made me realize how fortunate I was to get to take part in this experience and how grateful I am that this trip changed me the way it did. I can truly say I am a more worldly, laid back and inquisitive person than I ever was before. I’m never going to be the same again after this experience and what a beautiful thought that is. India thank you for showing me some of the most incredible people, scenery, and culture that I could’ve ever imagined. This trip has impacted my life significantly and I can’t wait to take back all I’ve learned and experienced to the US. Finally, I want to thank everyone who allowed me this incredible opportunity to go on this trip. I could not be more grateful for this opportunity. Farewell for now India, I know I can’t stay away from you too long.
Kayla Ma’am


A Farewell to Magnolia

It’s unbelievable to think after 6 weeks with the staff and students of AECS my time with them has come to an end. I went into my last day of teaching with a heavy heart, but grateful to have one last chance to say thank you to everyone who made my experience so wonderful. When I arrived at school the students were already begging me to stay just a day or two more. One student insisted that I stay until her birthday and stay with her at her family’s home. While I had to sadly decline this offer, I was flattered to see the kindness of my students. I was showered with letters and well wishes all day long. My folder I have kept for notes from the students nearly doubled in size in this last day. I made sure to make time to visit each and every class I had been a part of at one point or another throughout my time at Magnolia. I chatted with them, learned with them and ultimately had to say goodbye to them.
The hardest goodbye would have to be my students in class 3E. I have worked with these students in particular quite closely since my first day. The bond I have created with these students has far exceeded anything I had anticipated coming into this experience. These students are some of the most kind, intelligent and fun students I have had the pleasure of knowing. At the end of the day, I found myself in class 3E receiving a long and drawn out group hug. The students wanted me to promise I would come back and visit them. I assured them that I would do everything in my power to make this happen. On their way out, I asked each student what they wanted to be when they grew up. Answers ranged from being a dancer to being a scientist. It brought me so much happiness to hear these students aspirations, as I know they can make them all a reality.
After school, the staff of Magnolia threw us a farewell celebration. I was lucky enough to get to speak at this celebration to be able to thank the staff for making my time at Magnolia so unforgettable. I even got to sing a song for the teachers that Lakshmi Ma’am taught me, which was in Hindi. This step out of my comfort zone reminded me of just how far I have come from the beginning of this experience. We wrapped up the celebration the best way we knew how, a dance party. We blasted Indian music and the teachers taught me all kinds of new dance moves that will surely be a hit back in the States. It was bittersweet to say goodbye to the teachers at the end. I realized what incredible role models these women had been to me and how lucky I was to have had them as a mentor and friend. We hugged goodbye and promised to keep in touch, a promise I fully plan to keep.
Thank you AECS Magnolia for being such an incredible home to me for the past six weeks. Especially, thank you to Dr. Seema for allowing me this opportunity to be a part of this school and forever impacting my future in education.