OSU Abroad Blog: Allyson Satter

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Allyson Satter completed an international internship in Loni, India with IE3 Global during winter term of her senior year. Majoring in Public Health in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences, Allyson chose a program centered on social medicine and its impact on populations within rural communities. Read on to learn more about the culture differences that stood out to Allyson and how she used this internship to further her career.


“At one point, going to India was just a dream. I was a freshman looking at another student’s blog and wishing I could experience the same program. A couple of years later, I found myself sitting in LAX waiting for my 16-hour direct flight to Dubai and then to Mumbai. India now holds some of my fondest memories – not a single day goes by without something popping into my mind.

Allyson_Face-SynergiesAs a Public Health alumna, this was the perfect way to end my bachelor’s degree because I was able to apply it to real life scenarios. I remember sitting in one of my Public Health classes and thinking, “What am I going to do with this degree? Where do I even start?” India led me in the right direction. I realized how much I loved promoting health, wellness and community resources after I spent three hours teaching Indian children at a private school in Loni. Seventy two hours after I returned to Oregon, I found myself in an interview for Kaiser Permanente and was hired three hours later. I would be lying if I said India didn’t come up in my interview, it practically related to every question! I am grateful for the opportunity I was given in India, as well as the doors it has opened for my future and the lifelong friends I have made. I encourage every student to break out of the mold and push the boundaries we have been accustomed to. Be a minority, experience a new culture, and embrace what the world has to offer.

“As a Public Health alumna, this was the perfect way to end my bachelor’s degree because I was able to apply it to real life scenarios.”

Here are some interesting things I learned about Loni, India:

  • No one really shakes hands; it caught me off guard when someone actually did. But, on your birthday everyone shakes your hand!
  • There is always room: i.e. a family of four on a motorcycle, 10 people in one cab or people just hanging onto the outside of a car/bus/train.
  • Forget about PDA, it is just unacceptable in rural areas. However, it is perfectly acceptable to hold hands, hug and lean on the same sex, but homosexuality is not acceptable. Trust me, I am confused, too.
  • A milk shake is not actually a milk shake. You may get flavored milk or a smoothie.
  • When you order a grilled cheese, make sure to say hold the corn. But really, it normally comes with corn. Weird.
  • Anytime a person of higher authority walks into a room, everyone must stand until they are told to be seated.
  • Oh, you want a pizza? Enjoy your ketchup pizza sauce.
  • Your personal space vanishes once you land in India. An entire road could be available but a stranger will still brush up against you.
  • Every dish can be eaten with your hands: i.e. rice, Dahl, soup, you name it.
  • There are no voicemails, the phone just keeps ringing and ringing and ringing.
  • Eggs are considered a meat (aka non-vegetarian).
  • Small white squares with a green dot in the middle indicate a product is vegetarian.
  • Restaurants take pride in calling themselves 100% vegetarian. Some even get a little crazy with 200% vegetarian, overachievers.
  • I still haven’t figured out why, but many pastas taste sweet.
  • His and her colognes are advertised with the saying “0% Gas,” I am still trying to understand what that means.
  • Expect a little masala (mixture of spices) in your lemonade.
  • Speaking of masala, they have masala EVERYTHING. Chips, candy, top ramen, fruit, soda, water, you name it. India loves masala.
  • “Red Label” is a brand of alcohol and not a great word to describe the chocolate bar you are looking for…whoops!
  • Milk comes in a plastic bag.Allyson_School_Kids-Synergies
  • Instead of just saying my cousin, you specify female/male by saying my cousin brother or cousin sister.
  • There is a cheese commercial where kids make a sub sandwich and say “American!” and then boom, they are cowboys and Native Americans.
  • There is a lack of structure, or maybe a sense of entitlement among individuals. Do not be surprised when someone cuts in front of you.
  • The caste system still very much exists, unfortunately. You only marry within your caste, and even how you speak to a person depends on your caste.
  • When you cross the street, make sure to look both ways, and then look again, and again. Actually, just keep looking until you get to the other side. They are supposed to drive on the opposite side as the U.S., but that doesn’t always happen, no one follows the rules.
  • All tea and coffee is made with milk and sugar, you won’t get black anything unless specified.
  • There are countless commercials about fairness cream or face wash, forget Jergens natural glow, my skin tone is in style here!
  • Every girl has their nose pierced on the left side, I have met one woman with it on the right like mine.
  • Rings on the second toe symbolize a married woman, as well as gold necklaces.
  • There is cilantro in every dish.
  • Noodle dishes are titled based on their spice level. Mild is Shezwan, medium is Singapore and hot is Hong Kong. But no one knows why they chose those names.
  • Eye glasses are referred to as specs.
  • If you run out of minutes on your phone, you obviously cannot make any calls/texts, but others can still call you.
  • Cricket is some serious business, you know a game can take eight hours? ONE game!
  • Tapestries surprisingly don’t exist in India, unless you are expecting a picture of the last supper.
  • When it is your birthday, you can expect to have your friends feed you cake. Just picture a line of people putting cake in your mouth. Mmmm.
  • As a sign of respect, you touch a person’s feet and then touch your chest.
  • The guest truly is God, prepare to be pampered in every way imaginable.”

Learn more about international opportunities at Oregon State University.

This story was originally published by OSU Abroad.