Buddy William Hoaglin
"Thanks again, Kutty, you have made this experience first class. I hope to keep in touch with you and hopefully see you in India again someday. I thank God every day for sending me your way.
"I had no expectations when coming here. I had no clue what India, or Kutty, had in store for me. I told myself long before I came to India that while i was here i was going to surrender myself to India and take it everything it has to offer. Over the past three months I have learned more than any university has to offer me. I've experienced things that will be engraved into my memory for a long time to come, and if there is one thing I'm sure of, I am definitely coming back to learn more. This gap semester has shown me a world I could only read about back home. I had no idea this side of the earth really existed untilI I came and saw it for myself. In India I have seen millions of people in one city; I've seen rolling mountain ranges that never seem to end; and villages that have never even heard of America. I've seen the world from the top of a 20,000-foot peak, bathed an elephant, and white-water rafted. Those are things people hardly get to do. I've touched cobras, which i thought was insane, but apparently in Corbett that's normal stuff. Most of all I have made friendships and connections that I plan to keep in touch with. I hope I never forget about my experiences in India; maybe I can forget about the car rides and bathroom visits but even the bad times in India were worthwhile. I feel bad for people who will never get to see India, if only they knew how much they were missing out on.
"I know when I go home and try to explain my trip nobody will understand what it was really like for me, but hopefully by the way that I carry myself my friends at home will see the way India has impacted me. I came to India not having a clue, and now I'm leaving with answers. India has become a second home for me. I hope it will stay like that for a long time. Rishi taught us this phrase that I use quite often that is said "Bahar say gora, aandar say hindustani" (Sp?). Basically meaning, on the outside my skin is white, but inside my heart is Indian. This phrase is precisely how I feel so I hope it stays true as I go home until I can come back.
"I'd like to thank Mr Kutty who made all this possible and also to Rishi, who has saved my life more times than I can count. Thanks also to the Gap Guys, Holden and Alex who have shown courage and bravery in our obstacles; we got on each other's nerves sometimes but we have learned to get along in order to achieve what we have achieved. This trip wouldn't have been the same without any of you, so to everyone else here, though you might not know it, you have influenced me as well.
"India is the first country I have been to besides my own, so coming to Delhi I had intense culture shock; but being at Woodstock where there were other foreigners who were doing fine made me feel at home. So thank you to everyone here and to Woodstock School for providing me with this opportunity. I can assure you it means the world to me."
"I'd start off by saying that, while the Gap Semester was grueling and taxing at some points, it was a stupendous and rewarding experience.
"At many points during the Gap Semester it was a test of will and to continue with unwavering perseverance. In particular our arduous ascent up Draupadi-Ka-Danda can only be described, as Sir Edmand Hillary would say, 'Whoever challenges it declares war. He must mount his assault with the skill and ruthlessness of a military operation. And when the battle ends, the mountain remains unvanquished. There are no true victors, only survivors.' As Buddy and I slowly made our ascent up the glacier labyrinth, I glanced up at the stars which twinkled in the night sky and I was filled with ineffable joy. I realized that I had discovered a new passion, a passion to climb, explore and enjoy the tranquility that nature has to offer. As the sun rose above the snowcapped mountains, Buddy and I stood triumphantly as the first Americans to successfully ascend Draupadi-Ka-Danda."
"The Gap Semester has most definitely changed me. I know the experiences my fellow gap students and I have had will be remembered for the rest of our lives. When else in my life will I experience a Buddhist monk's daily routine, and then be able to substantially help them by building a much-needed greenhouse? I can now tell people I have climbed multiple Himalayan peaks. I have rafted on the Ganges, looked for Bengal tigers in Corbett, and so many other adventures that I could fill up an entire page.
"I really do think we have matured over the course of these last three months. I remember myself right before I came to India, so very nervous and unsure of myself. I knew little about the outdoors, nothing about India, and I had never spent such a long time in a foreign country. The gap semester has come a long way in building my confidence both in the outdoors and life.
"I am really sad to leave here. Over these months India has grown on me to a point where I call it home. I am sad to say goodbye to my fellow gap students with whom I have shared a brotherly bond with for three months. When you spend time that much time with people they can become almost your family.
"I am really tired and we have been doing super crazy stuff here in Delhi while you've been gone: getting into trouble and breaking rules, that kind of stuff. I will definitely send you more just leave me a reply in a few days and it will remind me if I hadn't already sent you more stuff."
Rishi Damani (Chaperone)
"After hearing the boys describe their experience — you can rest assured that this is as descriptive and heartfelt as it can get when it comes to the gap year. I want to thank Buddy, Holden and Alex for choosing the Gap Semester. This has been one of the most memorable trips of my life. It really started off when I was looking at the potential of spreading outdoor education in India and as luck would have it, met Kutty and heard about the Hanifl center and Gap Semester — and jumped on the opportunity to be a chaperone at the semester. I have learned so much from the boys: Holden — to push beyond your limits and keep going; Buddy — has a great sense of humor and compassion; and Alex — for his candidness. I hope this experience shapes your lives positively and whenever you look back you think of it with fondness.
"Lastly I would like to thank all the staff at the Hanifl Center for making this happen!"