Not many high school students get the opportunity to take an international trip during the school year. Senior Tiffany Cummings is on her second. During her sophomore year, she travelled to India and recently returned for two more weeks in Delhi, Jarken, Arrisaa and Mumbai to visit the schools and orphanages built through her church, Radiant.
“I went with my parents,” Cummings said. “Another family whose church also gave money for these causes travelled with us.”
The journey was long and arduous. After two eight-hour plane rides, a long drive finally took her and her family to their first destination: Delhi.
“There are absolutely no driving rules; it is not unusual to see a family of five on one moped with a baby half hanging off,” Cummings said.
The tedious and stress-inducing ride through streets crowded with cars, mopeds, cows, monkeys and goats was well-worth it, as the Cummings family stayed their first night in the Neemrana Fort Palace.
“The first night the hosts wanted to bless us with staying in an Indian palace. It was
breathtaking,” Cummings said. “It was very old and full of detail. It took all day to explore; around every corner, there was a hidden garden or staircase.”
The Neemrana Palace was just a quick stop on the way to Cummings’ next destination. Her father’s ministry work took them to a Christian pastor convention in Jarken for five days.
“Everyday we had flights or long car rides to get around the country.”
From Jarken, the Cummings family travelled to Arrisaa to experience the Hindu festival of Diwali. Diwali is a festival of lights, celebrating the triumph of light over darkness. Fireworks, the lighting of candles floating down rivers and praying to the goddess of wealth and good fortune, Lakshmi, are all common as both Hindus and people outside of the religion celebrate the festival.
“Diwali was such a beautiful experience with fireworks, painted cows and people in beautiful, colorful clothing.”
After celebrating Diwali and spending the night exploring, Cummings travelled to Mumbai to visit local orphanages and schools.
“My favorite part was seeing the children when we visited; they were all so beautiful and full of life,” Cummings said. “I was filled with so much happiness being able to spend time with them.”
Cummings had to the chance to explore a variety of places in India and participate in different cultural and religious experiences, including visiting the Taj Mahal. While there, Cummings noticed some of the cultural differences from American culture.
“Many people were shocked to see a blonde, white person and blatantly stared. They wanted to take pictures or to shake my hand because I was so unfamiliar looking,” Cummings said. “Indian culture is also much more colorful and prominent.”
Appreciation for the differences is what Cummings said made her become more compassionate and understanding of other cultures and lifestyles.
“I realized how important it is to get out of your comfort zone and see what is outside of the United States, or whatever your normal routine is. It’s an eye-opener that is capable of changing your viewpoints and preconceptions about those who are different than you.”
As for returning, Cummings is all for it.
“I would love to [go back] because it such a beautiful place. I feel so blessed with the opportunities and experiences I was exposed to.”