‘India Experience’ encourages future student travel with photographic exhibition

Jena Dean

Experiences of those who participated in the “India Experience” trip during winter break were displayed Feb. 29 through March 11 with a week-long photographic exhibition in the Art Gallery.

The photographic exhibition features 18 students’ experiences in multiple Indian cities such as Mumbai, Pune and Ajanta. In addition, the exhibition featured photos from historical sites around India such as the Ellora caves and the Taj Mahal in Agra.

“The students were really transformed by their experiences [in India] and this is just a way to share it with everyone,” said Azyz Sharafy, professor of electronic art and graphics.

Students who received their Washburn Transformational Experience for international education gave their presentations March 4 to the public.

The three-week trip, which took place in late December and early January, was led by several Washburn professors including Sharafy and Sharla Blank, professor of anthropology. The display includes both photographs from students and first-hand accounts of each individual’s extensive travels.

Planning for the faculty-led trip to India began more than 10 years ago but was delayed after terrorist attacks in one of the nation’s largest cities.

“We started planning in 2006 for this,” Sharafy said. “In 2008, there were some attacks near Mumbai, so we had to cancel. There was a trip led by the International House a few years ago, but this has been the biggest one so far.”

The trip to India was open to all students at Washburn and included a variety of ages and majors, including those in art, history, anthropology and nursing.

“It was a really diverse, mixed group of people,” Sharafy said. “Several people from the community came along.”

The photographic exhibition is a rare element from the trip, only being done once before for a group who traveled to Peru. The exhibition showcases the first-hand experiences of participants.

“The show is a promotion and a way to help people understand what the trip and what India is all about,” Sharafy said.

Although the 2015-2016 India Experience was in the works for 10 years, preparations for the next trip to India are already being made.

“We’re planning and recruiting students for our India Experience 2017-2018, which will take place over winter break again,” Sharafy said. “The trip is open to everyone at Washburn.”

Not only does Sharafy hope the exhibition will encourage participation in the next “India Experience,” but she also hopes it will broaden the minds of students who have never left the U.S. before.

“One student who went with us to India never flew on a plane before,” Sharafy said. “I hope that this exhibition will encourage students to travel abroad and to open their eyes and realize the beauty of America as well.”