Global Immersion in India

Posted by Lawrence Cole, WG15

After wrapping up my first semester courses and visiting my parents in Florida for the Christmas holiday, I boarded an Emirates Airbus A380 en route to Mumbai for the 2-week Wharton Global Immersion Program (GIP) in India. The GIP trips combine an on-the-ground education in the economic, cultural and geopolitical particulars of an emerging region of the world with quite a bit of vacationing and relationship building with a cohort of about 30 Wharton students. GIP trips are currently taken to India and The Middle East during the winter and China and South America during the spring. Each individual program is worth 0.5 credit units towards graduation and also involves a series of courses prior to departure.

I was drawn to the GIP program as my first major trip at Wharton largely due to the fact that I am a huge history geek and am more keen to explore the site of an ancient palace and learn about its significance in the world than to visit a beach. This preferential leaning may also be influenced by the fact that after growing up in Florida and living in California I have seen enough beaches for a lifetime, but I digress. At the risk of sounding cliche,  I could not have chosen a more fun, interesting and diverse group of travel companions and cadre of native Indian coordinators and guides to share this experience with. And while I could quite literally go on for hours about this experience, I will cover just a few of its most interesting highlights here.

Mumbai (formerly Bombay)

One of the things that impresses me most about India is its thrust to regain control over its own destiny since the expulsion of the British 2-3 generations ago. One symbolic expression of that reclamation has been the changing of the names of several of its cities from their English-given monikers to names that are better aligned with the indigenous culture, religions and languages. The change of the name of India’s largest city from Bombay to Mumbai is perhaps the best known of these.

My introduction to Mumbai did not go so well, to be honest. A tight layover window in Dubai caused my luggage to be placed on the flight behind me, which resulted in my having to wait for five hours in the Mumbai airport for them to arrive. This, of course, was complicated by the fact that I was forced to wait outside (there were no seats in the airport) and was harassed on a few occasions by a gun-toting security guard when I tried to re-enter to check on the status of my luggage. My bags did eventually arrive, however. And just as they were being brought out to me, three of my classmates (Monica Rodriguez, Dean Drizin, and Matt Dennett–all WG15) who had just landed showed up as well. We hailed a cab and our magic carpet ride began.

We rode in that cab for what felt like days through a vast city with more than twice the population of New York City before reaching our hotel. Having lived in Los Angeles for a number of years, I thought I knew traffic. I thought that I had done my fair share of horn-honking as well. My thoughts were pure delusion. The organized chaos that one encounters on the roads of India is something that words alone cannot express. It must be experienced. In time, however, I and the rest of my cohort would become accustomed to the constant jerking, near-crashes, horn-honking and stop-and-go that typifies the road traveler’s experience in India.

Originally published on the MBA Student blog January 22, 2014

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