When you say “life-changing”, what exactly do you mean?

by Sarah Luna

For those of you who haven’t heard yet, I’m going to be in India this summer doing field work. Given my research interests, I had always known that this would be a possibility, but it seemed so far-fetched. Psh, me? In India? Oh but it’s real now–I’m written into the budget.

The only exposure to India I’ve had was through the biographies of Mother Teresa, William Carey, Amy Carmichael, and Mohandas Gandhi. The few people I know who have been to India all describe it as a “life-changing” place, and when pressed, they cannot find the words to express all they have experienced.

Life-changing. What does this mean? What in my life is susceptible to change?

Life-changing. Will I come back dead?
Spirit-Changing. Will I come back despondent?
Faith-Changing. Will I come back Hindu? Muslim? Atheist? Catholic? Orthodox? Buddhist? Animist?
Ideology-Changing. Will I come back an anarchist, behaviorist, phenomenologist, interactionist, communist, capitalist?
Locus of Control-Changing. Do I really have control over my life? What about the Indian girls?
Personality-Changing. Will I still be INTJ?

What will happen to me?

Despite my philosophical musings, I am very excited to be going. This work fulfills one of my personal goals and one of my academic goals. I have three and a half months to prepare. I’m going to try to learn some of the language. Yes, I’ll have a translator for the research stuff, but what’s the fun of being in a different country if I can’t speak? Besides, Benny the Irish Polyglot learns languages in three months. Why shouldn’t I?

I know how to prepare academically, but I need some help figuring how to prepare emotionally and spiritually. If moving to Ithaca caused such imbalance, I can’t even imagine how I’ll feel in India. I won’t have time to be shell-shocked. I need to hit the ground running.  So I need to be prepared.

What do you do to prepare for a “life-changing” experience?