A Teen’s World in India by Alex Tang

What makes studying abroad so intense is that one learns as much, if not more, outside of the classroom than they would conventionally. As a result, I’ve been able to learn about India and its beautiful culture in both the academic setting of a schoolroom, and through social interactions with my brothers and their friends.

There is a universal “teenage experience”, transcending cultural and political borders alike. Having come halfway across the world, and living with a host family with two other teenaged boys, I’ve had the unique opportunity to experience the lifestyles of my similar-aged peers in India.

I’ve been extremely lucky to have been placed with two hilarious, easygoing, intelligent brothers. There is an 18-year-old and a 15-year-old. Since my arrival in India, they have seamlessly included me in their daily activities and invited me to join their individual friend groups. Indian teenagers I have noticed, are extraordinarily curious about the world outside of India. This curiosity, and as the typical Indian teen’s intrinsic open-mindedness and friendliness, has privileged me to just hang out with them without any feelings of discomfort.

Every day when I returned home from school, I would have a quick cup of chai and see what my brothers and their friends had planned for the afternoon. Some days, we met in cafes, sipping milkshakes and talking about sports and school. On other days, we might go to the soccer or basketball court to crack jokes during halftime. If we don’t feel like going out, we usually invite people over to play FIFA on the Playstation, or put on a Bollywood movie. As in any country on Earth, the teenagers in India have hobbies and drama to keep them busy, as well as dreams for the future. Whenever I’m out with my brother and their friends, they remind me so much of my own friends in America, that it’s as if I had never left the United States.

Yet, as universal as the teenager lifestyle is, certain qualities stand out amongst Indian teenagers. The Indian post-secondary educational system is much more competitive than in the United States. As a result, Indian teens spend much more time in school and in private tuition (tutoring) classes. If American teenagers think the SAT and ACT make life difficult, the Indian 12th Standard Exams and the JEE Mains/Advanced examinations are living nightmares.  While it’s indeed true that Indian teens are extremely studious, they maintain healthy social lives as well. If anything, the long hours they spend in classes increase the value they place in time spent relaxing with friends.

My favorite moments in India have been spent with my brothers and friends, being able to interact with Indian teenagers. As a result, studying in India has not only enriched my understanding of the regional language and culture, but has also confirmed my identity as a teenage citizen of the world.

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