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International Reach, UNT fosters global understanding, prepares next generation of world leaders by Ellen Rossetti


story extras

Jon Gilliam, Nepal

Heather Lacy, India

Mary Ellen Scribner, Ghana

other features

Gone to North Texas

Sleepless Nights

Suiting Up

International Reach



Journalism major Heather Lacy on the winter course and semester in India

indian temple, very tall and brightly colored

The Gopuram (tower) at Chidambaram, one of the five holiest Hindu temples dedicated to Shiva

House concert in Mannargudi, three musicians playing percusion, woodwind and stringed instruments

A house concert in Mannargudi

I have had so many experiences here already that could never be realized through reading or hearing about the culture. Waking up every day and taking a bucket shower; eating a rich, spicy, traditional Indian breakfast; riding through the streets in an auto rickshaw narrowly avoiding collisions with cows, pedestrians, buses and motorcycles; bargaining for fruit at the market; avoiding cow dung on the sidewalks — these are all simple, daily experiences that cannot be understood by simply reading them.

Going to the Arudra Darisanam festival at the Natarajar temple in Chidambaram with 100,000 Hindus in attendance was an inexplicable experience. The crowd was shoulder-to-shoulder and bigger than at any event I have ever attended. Our professor said that people traveled to the shrine from all over India. It was a pilgrimage that some Hindus would make only once in their lifetime. … In the end, we were able to witness an amazing ceremony — the spirituality was palpable in the air. It is an experience that words or pictures cannot do justice. One absolutely must be present to feel the emotion of the atmosphere.

I have also seen soul-stirring traditional musical concerts. In general we have been studying Karnatic classic music, which combines traditional instruments like the ghatam (essentially, it's a large clay pot) with more western instruments like the violin. The intriguing instruments and the visible passion with which they were played reeled me in. When I remembered the rest of the world, I often looked around to see the rest of the audience was in a similar trance, totally consumed by the beautiful music being created on stage.

In addition to public concerts, we also had private house concerts. We would all sit on the floor in someone's living room and listen to vocalists and instrumentalists perform without any microphones or amplification. One of the most powerful events I have been so lucky to experience while here was a particular house concert. An amazing vocalist sang traditional Hindu devotional songs. After playing he explained what he had played, the philosophy behind the music and the emotions he felt while playing. I was moved by the serenity and enlightenment in one of his statements: "The lyrics are religious in nature, but it's really about the music. You are meant to simply enjoy the music."


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