Atlas Alumni: Meet Judy, One of Our Summer 2015 Global Innovators!
Judy Liu joined an Atlas Workshops’ 2015 custom service-learning high school trip to India through Episcopal High School in Alexandria, VA. Judy is a sophomore at EHS and is originally from Beijing. If you’re interested in traveling to India on a high school summer trip, click here. Kelsey Davenport: How did you find out about Atlas Workshops?
Judy Liu: My school was running the program through Atlas Workshops, so it was advertised at my school, Episcopal High School.
KD: What made you want to travel to India?
JL: I’m from Beijing originally, so I’m no stranger to traveling. I wanted to take a trip that would challenge me and help me grow, both personally and as a student. This program definitely achieved that.
KD: What was the program’s focus?
JL: Our focus was education. There are hundreds of millions of children in India, and the disparity between opportunities can be extreme – some children are born into high-ranking families and have access to amazing schools, while others grow up in the slums and start working from a very young age. The program was really cool because we got to work hand in hand with educational non-profits that help develop curriculums for underprivileged schools. I feel like I learned a lot from talking to kids my age and the volunteers and instructors who work with them.
KD: Was there anything that surprised you about the Indian schools?
JL: The schools in India didn’t surprise me because many of them weren’t structured that differently from the schools back in China. To be honest, there is a difference between American high schools [and schools in India and China]. Students in Indian and Chinese schools emphasize respect towards authority, whereas American students are more likely to be distracted in class. For example, students would stand up for a teacher when they entered the classroom.
KD: Still, India has a very diverse education system. What did you learn about it while you were there?
JL: There are public and private schools, low-cost private schools, government-run schools; it’s very diverse. While we were in Bangalore, we worked with the Ananya Trust High School Partnership, which helps poor and under-privileged children. The school provides a haven for students to express themselves in a way that they wouldn’t normally be able to. It helps them find their interests and also does its best to empower girls in a society where they are often oppressed. It was an awesome experience.
KD: You mentioned the trip being challenging – what would you say challenged you the most?
JL: The food was an adjustment! But I ended up really liking it. It is different, though.
KD: Spicy, huh?
JL: Definitely. It was cool, though. You can avoid the spice if that’s not something you like.
KD: What was your favorite thing about the trip?
JL: It gave me so much writing material! I love to write, and the trip taught me so much about Indian culture and Western influence in India. I wrote a lot of blog posts and journal entries about what I experienced and saw. Especially in terms of Indian traditions, and how the family unit is viewed in India versus elsewhere. I also liked that there was a final product of our trip – we collected our stories and thoughts together to put into a book. I’m really excited to see the book, because we all worked really hard on it.
KD: So, final verdict of the trip?
JL: I loved my time in India, and I would definitely go back. We spent two weeks in India, which felt long enough – but not quite enough to visit every major city in the country. Next time, I want to visit Mumbai and Calcutta. If Atlas wanted to plan a summer trip there in the future, I would definitely sign up!
Interested in traveling to India this year with us? Atlas Workshops leads summer programs as part of our Global Innovators High School trips to India that are open to high school students around the world. In 2016, we’ll be focusing on innovations in healthcare–read about our past trip on education here. The high school summer trip to India for 2016 will take place in late July.