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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Sara Hand never looked at her air-conditioned car with as much gratitude as she did upon returning from India.

The 21-year-old family, youth and community sciences senior was one of 15 UF students who studied abroad in India for five weeks this summer.

The six-credit study-abroad program took students from Chennai to New Delhi, the capital, to Jaipur. Students learned about various Indian nongovernmental organizations and development, said Muthusami Kumaran, UF assistant professor of nonprofit management and community organizations and the program’s director.

The group saw the organizations’ work, including an orphanage and results from microloans, and visited attractions like the Taj Mahal. Hand said seeing such contrasting scenes back to back was interesting.

“I wasn’t expecting to see these huge palaces, and then a little down the road, kids don’t even have any clothes,” she said.

Kumaran has taught lecture courses on nonprofit management for the past three years but decided a firsthand experience would benefit students.

Kumaran said he chose India because it has the second-largest amount of nongovernmental organizations in the world, at 1.3 million. The U.S. has the most, with about 1.5 million nongovernmental organizations, he said.

Kumaran, who came to the U.S. from India in 1993, brought his wife, Leela, and 8-year-old daughter, Janani, on the trip. He and his wife acted as translators between the students and non-English-speaking locals.

Harris Krause, a 19-year-old chemical engineering sophomore, said he participated because he wanted to “get out of the engineering bubble.” Krause, who said India is as crowded as a packed Turlington Plaza, said the trip changed his perspective. Between using a bucket for cold-water showers and not having access to public drinking fountains, he was surprised how simple many Indians’ lives were.

“There were so many people in India who didn’t have those amenities who were just as — if not more happy than — the average American family,” Krause said.

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