An experience of a lifetime: a self-reflective journey to India

Why further education?

Coming to the end of my undergraduate studies in 2015 I had an open mind about where I wanted to go. Was it into a job? Was it further studies? The truth is I didn’t know. Looking at further study I knew I had to choose a course that would challenge me because I have the habit of staying within my comfort zone.  The MA International Development and Education (IDE) course stood out to me because I wanted a course in education from an international developmental perspective and the opportunity to do placement, and see it for myself was important.

The first six months of the course was a real eye opener. IDE brings people together people from all corners of the world where opinions are different and our backgrounds, feelings and stand points have been shaped by our experiences in life. The real difference at Master’s is the level of critical thinking that’s expected from students. The criticality element takes a while to get used to, I think being critical and criticising can get mixed up and there’s a fine line in academia.


My journey to India

Having never been out of Europe, there was really never any doubt that I had to go somewhere far away. India was the perfect choice and I was lucky to be sharing it with other students on our course. Believe it or not, I’m quite the unorganised person, however when it came to planning India I think I organised as much as I could, even though it didn’t always go to plan.

On the 16th February, I set off on my journey from the Newcastle Airport terminal at 6am in the morning. Flying via Paris at -2 degrees I was looking forward to getting to nice warm New Delhi Airport. It was an interesting first journey to my hotel where my driver was literally falling asleep, I was glad to make it alive! I met Celete, Paulina and Steph from my course the next day at the airport and so my journey began. We threw ourselves in the deep end, using the Delhi metro straight away even though we were all jet lagged. We went to Old Delhi during our first weekend, a real eye opener on the sheer amount of people in India.

I started my placement at a school in Lajpat Nagar which is a public private partnership (PPP) between a non-governmental organisation (NGO) in the UK and the local government in the district. A lot of time spent in university you’re learning and questioning other people’s experiences through their books or discussions and here I am seeing it for myself. For the first few days, I got used to my surroundings observing classes and talking to teachers moving on to delivering a project for the placement part of my time, part of a wider project involving a school in the UK also. One of favourite parts was the community visit where we got to see where some of the children who attended the school lived.

During my third week, we did so much in terms of visiting different school’s government and low-cost private schools (LCPS). We visited a community organisation and two LCPS in rural Mewat in Haryana, seeing a different side to what we had for most of our time in Delhi. These opportunities gave me a chance to get data for dissertation also giving me first-hand experience of collecting data in unique contexts. We met and spoke with so many different people who were very welcoming and open to helping us.

In between all of this made time to go sightseeing. Every weekend we flew to a different place, Jaipur, Varanasi and Agra however when we came back into New Delhi airport, it always felt like we were home.


A self-reflective Journey

I had expectations of India and it didn’t disappoint. I had so many different experiences in India but what was most enjoyable was going on a journey with Celete, Paulina and Steph. I don’t think it would have been as easy, or I would have done everything I did if I went alone. When the others finally left the same day I was travelling home, I had a little tear.

It took 20 hours all in to travel back to the UK and I thought a lot about the journey I had been on. From my first time on the Delhi Metro, walking up the Amer Fort in Jaipur, seeing sunrise on the Ganges, Varanasi and seeing the beautiful Taj Mahal, Agra to my time spent in schools in Delhi, Gurgaon and our trip to rural low cost private schools in Mewat. I simply have had the best experience of my life.

This time last year I had no idea I would be in India and honestly didn’t know where I wanted to go. I’m so glad I did it and would do it again in a heartbeat.

About the blogger

Darren is studying a postgraduate taught masters in International Development and Education in the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University.  You can read his blogs at

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