Name: Karen Jones
Hometown: Portage, MI
Varsity sports participated in: Women’s Cross Country and Track & Field
Study abroad semester and location: Spring 2014, Jaipur India
What was the most unexpected thing you encountered during your off-campus study experience?
The monkeys! One morning I was sitting up on the terrace of my homestay in the middle of Jaipur city and I hear my host mom yelling about how the monkeys are coming. I look around the surrounding terraces and sure enough there is a pack of about 15 monkeys headed our way! While she got the monkey stick, I closed myself up in my room and watched safely from my window while she scared away the monkeys. Only in India do I have to hide in my room from the casual pack of monkeys strolling by.
What was the best meal you had abroad and why?
The best meal I had abroad was Bhadi. These are dough balls cooked in the ground with the ashes of up cow poop patties. When they were cooking, it looked like a bunch of dough balls buried in the ground with ash and then they dug them up and wiped off the dirt and ash and served them with some lentil soup. They were delicious! I didn’t realize they were cooked using cow poop until after I had eaten the meal… but all the same they were great!
What was the biggest difference between Beloit and your host city/university? Similarity?
The biggest difference is definitely that absolute chaos and unpredictability of this country. In the cities, there are people everywhere, traffic, horns blaring, elephants and camels walking down the street alongside the newest car models. There is always so much going on to overtake all of your senses. Along with this chaos comes a great amount of unpredictability and randomness. I have learned to go with the flow and just accept it and somehow everything always seems to work out perfectly in the end.
How were you able to stay in shape or stay prepared for your sport while you were gone?
Being a runner, I had it pretty easy. Running is typically a pretty simple thing to do just about anywhere. However, being in a new country with unfamiliar customs and busy, intimidating, traffic filled roads did pose its problems, but I was able to find parks, tracks, and safer roads to run on and gain a sense of independence and confidence as I explored. I’ve had some runs to remember! Only in India will I have to dodge cows (with huge horns might I add) on my runs and carry a small rock with me to throw at cows/goats/dogs if they get too close.
Has the time you spent abroad changed the way you think about your athletic experience or your sport in general?
My time abroad has made me appreciate my sport much more. Studying abroad in India has put many things into perspective for me, my athletics included. I realize how universal running is but also how privileged I am to have the time and the resources to take part in something I love. Not very many people in the world have that luxury.
Did being an athlete provide you with any advantages while you were abroad? If yes, what were they?
Definitely! Going out for runs allowed me to be independent and explore my new home in a way that most people never do. Running on the streets of a new city gives you a unique understanding and perspective on your new location which I have always appreciated. I also got to see and experience things that other people miss out on. Also, runs provide me with some great alone time where I get to really appreciate where I am and reflect on my experience on a daily basis. Not only has it been physically beneficial but it has also been very mentally beneficial.