18 Nov Mind and Body with Emma in India
an interview with Emma, by Caroline W
My name is Emma Wiechers and I’m a 25 year old student from Waterloo, Canada. I previously went to school for musical theatre and even performed professionally after graduating. I felt a desire to go back to school because of other interests and passions I had and also because of the amazing trips I had the opportunity to go on. I am currently at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, studying Global and International Studies, and l love it! Besides musical theatre, I enjoy watching hockey, football, and basketball (especially our NBA Champs, the Toronto Raptors), hanging out with friends and family, and meeting corgis.
I went on the India: Mind and Body trip two summers ago, in June of 2018.
How did you hear about Operation Groundswell, and what about it made you want to travel with them?
I had heard about Operation Groundswell through my sister who went on a trip to Peru, and one of my best friends, who travelled to Ghana. Hearing about their experiences made me want to explore a place I had never been before, and Operation Groundswell seemed like the right fit for me. The purpose of OG trips matched with my beliefs and values, and I loved how diverse all the trips were.
What were you most nervous about before your program?
I was most nervous about travelling to India in general. I was excited to go, and knew I wanted to experience it, yet it scared me to travel to a place that was completely out of my comfort zone. More specifically, I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to eat the food and that I would get ill while I was there.
Right, makes sense! Was there something that surprised you on your program or in India?
Something that surprised me was that we were allowed to go in the Ganges River. It was a dream of mine to just dip my feet in the River because of how sacred the body of water is to Indians, and I wanted to experience that. Many people I had spoken to about this had said how unclean the water was and that we shouldn’t go in it. Not only were we allowed to put our feet in the water, but we also got to go rafting down the Ganges! During our raft trip, we got to jump out and lay in the river as the current brought us downstream. It was an incredible memory and I was so appreciative of OG for giving us that experience.
Was that your favourite memory, or did you have another highlight?
It’s so difficult for me to choose just one favourite memory out of this amazing adventure! One that stood out to me was climbing to the halfway point of one of the Himalayan Mountains in Dharamsala. Only half of the group chose to do this with one of our leaders, Yvonne, and they happened to be the girls that I connected most with on the trip. The climb started at 5am and it was difficult in that it took a few hours to climb, and the pathway was windy and uneven. There were times when you wanted to stop, but the four of us who decided to go, motivated each other to finish the climb. When we reached the halfway point, it was such an accomplishment and the view was unlike anything I had ever seen. I truly felt so alive on that climb and it ended up having such a profound effect on me for the rest of the trip.
If you had only three words to describe your program, what would they be?
Spiritual, exhausting, and invigorating.
And how did your program leave an impact on you?
The trip to India had such an impact on me. I had imagined going to India for such a long time and once I arrived there, it was more than I could hope for in the sense that I got to experience things that I never thought I would get to do. Everyone we met were so happy and welcoming, and they wanted to get to know you on a personal level. They were willing to welcome us into their culture and I never felt like I was intruding. This trip showed me how no matter where we come from, what religion we practice, what cultures or traditions we carry sacred to us, that we are all fundamentally the same. We all want happiness and to live a peaceful life, and I found that this trip really embodied those values.
For sure. So, what advice would you give to someone about to depart on their first OG program?
My advice would be to remember to stay open-minded. Remember that you are coming to a new place, with new customs, values, and traditions. What may be weird to you is normal to the locals, so it is important to recognize that you are a guest in their country and you’re there to learn and experience new things. It’s the reason you chose to go on an OG trip, so embrace what may be different and new for you!
And now our fun stuff! What’s your top carry-on item when you travel?
The top must-have for my carry-on would be my travel journal. I keep track of each day and important lessons or experiences. I love going through the journal at the end of the trip or even months later to reminiscence about the memories made.
What are the top three places you’ve been, and three places you want to visit next?
Top 3 Places Travelled: Ecuador (Chimborazo & the Amazon), PEI, Canada, and now India!
Top 3 On My List: Austria (Salzburg, specifically), Peru, and Verona, Italy