Stine Harder is from Willershagen, Germany. She has been in India from July 2009 for an 11 months stay under Rotary organization’s Youth Exchange Program. She is 17 years and old has completed her 10th grade in Germany. She is interested in dancing and taking Kathak lessons in India.
In this interview with SpeakBindas, she talks about her views on India, people, places and its culture.
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Excerpt of Interview
Q.: Stine, tell us about you, your backhome, where you come from.
I am 17 years old. In Germany I have completed my 10th grade. City where I live in Germany is more like a forest, close to nature. I live with my mother, my cat & dog. In weekends, my dad comes and live with us as he is working in another city. My brother is studying science in another city and is 20 years old.
Q.: Back in Germany you said you live in more like a forest area, where as here in Rajkot you live in say over populated area. What was your first impression when you landed here?
My first impression was traffic and cows. But I felt at home, my host family made it so comfortable for me. They showed me everything in the city. The first day was like being at home. So the first impression was really good.
Q.: How was your take on here’s road traffic initially?
At present, I couldn’t cross the road all alone. I used to take help of friends and host families. I was too scared. Now I can do it.
Q.: You have been here for last eight months. Tell us about the kind of activities you are doing here under your Exchange Program?
I am studying in S.N.K school in 11th standard. This exchange is more cultural than educational. When I go back to Germany I will have to repeat the 11th standard. Here I study, Kathak and Indian classical music. I am more interested in the cultural activities here.
Rotary has organized two trips for us and I have traveled to Delhi, Agra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Himalayas in the North Indian tour. Second tour was a South Indian tour and I went to Goa and other south Indian destinations.
Q.: How has been the travel through train experiences?
Amm… it was really nice. Initially it was a bit strange to travel in a train where people are staring at you, asking random questions such as ‘where you from‘ etc. During our North Indian tour, many people took pictures with us or say followed us around. Hence, we all Exchange Program students were together so it was indeed nice.
Q.: How have been your experiences with Indian people?
Most of the people have been really welcoming. Like our host families, they are very welcoming. They try to explain us everything. They explain us about the certain local things we are not aware about. They also try to understand me and my culture and why I am doing certain things.
While on streets most of the people are staring at me, may be wondering like “what’s this white girl doing on Rajkot streets!!” But that’s ok, I can understand that.
Q.: How have been your experiences with different host families you have stayed so far?
My first host family was Thakkar. They were very welcoming. It was my first three months in India. They tried explaining me everything so well.
Then I shifted to second host family of Sanghani. Vikram Sanghani who was Chairman of Rotary district 3060 was very nice. We all Exchange Students used to call him as Daddy and his wife as Mummy. I stayed there for couple of months with Haley who is an Exchange Student from USA.
My third family was Jeevrajani. My host mother wasn’t well versed with English but she was always ready to explain me everything. She was really nice and tried to understand me well.
Now I am staying with Parag Mehta’s family who is the president of the club. My host sister is really great. I go out with her.
Q.: As you have stayed and staying with Gujarati families, you would have enjoyed Gujarati food. Tell us about your favorite dishes.
In Gujarati food, I almost like everything like Thepla, Roti, Rice and Daal etc. It’s really tasty. My favorite dishes are Pau Bhaji and Pani Puri which are actually not Gujarati dishes. But I like them very much.
Q.: Have you ever tried your hands on making Gujarati food?
Yes, once I tried making Roti. But it didn’t come out that well. Roti was supposed to be round in shape but mine had a variant shape!
Q.: Stine, why you chose India for your Youth Exchange program? Was there an option to choose a country from the given list?
In Germany, it’s like we get a form and get three countries to choose from in the ladder of choice. I wrote INDIA which covered the place of three countries. It was like if they can’t send me to India, I don’t want to go any other country for my exchange.
It was always a dream for me to visit India. I was fascinated with its culture and people. In every part of India, the culture is so different. The people and language is so different. This country is like a different states together country, not falling apart. This is interesting. People here are so welcoming. They are so nice and open minded. I am also very much interested in the Indian music and dancing.
Q.: Did the bollywood movies provide you with information on Indian culture?
Yes, I am die hard fan of bollywood movies. Even in Germany I watch lots of bollywood movies. That’s how I got introduced to India. I have also read a lot on India. I also talked to few Indian students who study in my city in Germany.
Q.: Any favorite bollywood actor?
Yes, Shahrukh Khan. I have watched many of his movies such as ‘Main Hoon Na’, ‘Kal Ho Na Ho’, ‘Veer Zara’, ‘Devdas’, ‘Dil Se’, ‘Billu’, ‘Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna’ and many others.
Q.: What are your hobbies?
I am really into sports. I am a volleyball player. I really like soccer though I am not playing it. I am following the German soccer team. I love dancing. I have practiced Belle Dancing for four years. Here in India, I am learning Kathak so that’s a new experience for me. I also like music. The school I am studying in Germany is a Music and Language school.
Q.: What are your career plans? What you want to be?
After I finish my school education, I want to study business management. Major topic is event management, that’s what I am really interested in.
I am also planning for coming back to India. I want to live here. My mother is very open minded. She has said me that wherever I want to go, I can go. She is proud of me.
Q.: You have been to India through the efforts of Rotary Club under its Youth Exchange Program. Any message you have for it?
I want to thank Rotary Club and Rotary international for giving me this opportunity to stay in the land of my dreams. This is a great opportunity and I would like to tell everyone to experience it, let it be a short or long exchange program. That would make the world a better place.
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