Kayla Malcy wearing her host family's traditional Gurung dress.

Kayla Malcy (IAFS ’18) knew she was going to live with a host family as part of her spring 2017 semester abroad experience, but wasn’t sure what to anticipate. After being accepted to the SIT India: Sustainable Development & Social Change program and receiving a Global Grant from IAFS, Malcy traveled to Jaipur, India to meet the people she would call family for the next three months.

Within her first days in India, she fell in love with her host family: mom, dad, grandmother, brother, sister, and a family dog. Her mother ran a beauty parlor on the roof of their home, and Malcy admired her entrepreneur spirit. She often spent her free time with her host siblings because they shared similar hobbies and were close in age. Having a stand-in family while far away from her own was a big advantage, especially when she wasn’t feeling well or needed guidance. Malcy recalls, “As if I were her own, my grandmother knew just what I needed in times I was sick or needed comfort.”

In classes, Malcy learned about different issues facing India, ranging from national parks and displacement to the green revolution and migration. During excursions, she learned methods for saving indigenous crops, and gained first-hand experience on how to farm organically and make vermicompost, a rich compost processed by using specific worms to break down organic material. At home, she refined her Hindi language and talked frequently with her family about India’s history, the city of Jaipur, and its fascinating culture. “The most important thing I learned is that nothing in India exists separately,” explains Malcy. “India is a diverse country and everything is intertwined.” She saw this firsthand during her homestay, living in a home with a family spanning three generations. Her relationship with them developed into that of a real family. India has become more than her study abroad destination; it is a place where she has family and will always call home.

In the photo, Kayla Malcy is wearing a traditional Gurung dress from her host family's collection.