Across India: A National Geographic Student Expedition’s Journey

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Across India: A National Geographic Student Expedition’s Journey

By: Domenica Bayas, a tenth grader from Ecuador

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Monday, August 22, 2016 - 3:15pm

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This summer, DIRECTV, now part of the AT&T family, and FOX Networks (parent company of National Geographic) sent 4 amazing high school students from across the United States and Latin America on a National Geographic Student Expedition through the Nat Geo Mundo Explorer competition. These once-in-a-lifetime adventures took the 4 students on immersive learning trips, where they explored exciting destinations with National Geographic photographers, scientists and writers from all over the world. Over the next several weeks, we will be sharing their trip stories, including the following from Domenica Bayas, a tenth grader from Ecuador. 

This summer I spent 14 hours on a plane to New Delhi, India. Much like everyone else, I don’t enjoy long flights but I had been looking forward to this one for months and not even the cramped seats could keep my excitement down. As soon as we landed I was greeted by a mass of people, all beautifully dressed in colorful Saris and Dhotis. The streets were full of activity and I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of traffic and cars, and the friendliness of everyone who waved as we passed by.

On our second night, National Geographic expert photographer and filmmaker Sandesh Kadur joined us at dinner. He greeted each of us with a smile and a handshake. When I told him I was from Ecuador, he told me how much he loved my country. I couldn’t wait to dive in and start learning everything I could from him.

Our journey really began with our first stop to Ladakh, a region full of mountains and dry land that looked right out of a movie. We arrived at SECMOL, a small school where the students greeted us with enthusiasm. We immediately began making new friends with the Ladakhi people. We spent several days hiking, exploring the region and learning from the locals. One of my most memorable moments from the trip came when we visited a small Himalayan village called Ulley and met a wonderful woman who welcomed us into her home and taught us how to make chutagi, a delicious traditional Ladakhi meal. Throughout this part of the expedition, Sandesh regaled us with countless stories of his travels and helped teach us everything he could about the art of photography. We were sad he did not join us on our next leg of the trip, but we were all so appreciative of everything he taught us while we were together. 

After a week in Ladakh, we headed toward the region of Rajastan. Our first stop was Agra where, after a long and bumpy bus ride, we met several majestic elephants in the Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Center. We were thrilled to interact with the elephants, but nothing could compare to going to the Taj Mahal. The site was astonishing. After taking several pictures, we discovered that our visit was coinciding with the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Hordes of people had descended onto the mosque alongside of the Taj Mahal to celebrate. We stayed to watch the ceremony, and I was overcome with the beauty of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

After Agra we headed to Bharatpur, Samode, Jaipur and Neemrana. Everything changed from one place to another: the people, their clothing, their faces, the weather… everywhere we went was something new worth seeing. We went from staying in small homes in the mountains of Ladakh to staying in forts and palaces in Rajastan. We talked to Buddhist monks, got red dot blessings on our foreheads in a Hindu temple and saw a holy Islamic ceremony at the Taj Mahal. We hiked the Himalayas, visited with elephants and rode camels. Our experience cannot be wrapped up in one simple blog. We had so many amazing times with the group, singing, dancing and laughing on bus rides. I learned from expert photographers, met incredible local people and made amazing new friends. All of this and more happened in 3 short weeks that will stay in my memory forever.

I am so grateful to AT&T, Nat Geo Mundo and National Geographic for making this trip happen and for giving me this once-in-a-lifetime experience. I will treasure it forever and look forward to returning to India, and its wonderful people, down the road. 

Keywords: Philanthropy & Cause Initiatives | AT&T | Awards, Ratings & Rankings | DIRECTV | Diversity & Inclusion | Ecuador | Education | FOX Networks | Geo Mundo Explorer | India | National Geographic

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