StoryCorps: Ishbir Singh + Maithili Appalwar

This past Summer, Ishbir Singh – an International Student from India – returned from a 5-month study-abroad program at the Instituto Tecnológico de Buenos Aires. He is back at Tech working on his degree in Computer Engineering. When he met up with his close friend and fellow Yellow Jacket, Maithili Appalwar, he told her a little bit about how he grew as a person as a result of his experience, especially after he set a personal challenge for himself.

Audio Transcript:

Singh: One of the goals that I set for myself, was to be able to talk to and connect with like anyone regardless of their background or their national origin. I don't know, when I was there I used to go to all these bars, and they used to have these language exchanges. So where people would put our flags of their nationalities and just walk in.Anyway, there were all these people from very different backgrounds. It was like initially I felt strange, I don't know no one seemed to have a background similar to mine. Talking to them I discovered things. And I discovered myself. 

Appalwar: I think that's really interesting when you so happens that other people are better for you to explore your own identity. For instance when I did Wreck Camp this past summer, I felt like a lot of times when I talked to people and they said something, I would be like “Oh wait me too.” But I didn't even know that I felt that way. I didn't even know that was something that I would say. You know, “Oh hey, me too.” And so I think that's really interesting. I am really glad you had that experience in Argentina. Do you think there is a particular way in which the experience you had in your study abroad really changed you as a person?

Singh: Definitely. I mean, earlier I used to be much more judgmental. I mean, even before like I prided myself on being open, but once I was there I realized that I wasn't really open. I guess it all comes down to sharing experiences. You know?

Appalwar: Mhm.

Appalwar: Is there one person or particular experience that really stands out to you as something that was extremely special to you from that trip?

Singh: So I did this solo trip to the north of Argentina. What I did was I had these eight days between my classes and the finals. And I thought  I got to go somewhere. I got to explore the country. You know. And I go to I put in from Buenos Aires to like anyplace you know. And it gives me the cheapest ticket and that is Salta. And Salta is a province in the north of Argentina. I think okay, Salta, might as well. Then I booked the ticket right there and then without knowing anything.

Appalwar: Okay.

Singh: So even when I was going there I like landed there, and the only thing that I had planned was where I would stay for the first night. 

Appalwar: Oh wow.

Singh: And I was talking to the taxi guy, he is like recommend you this one, you know, because it has more like international people and like everything. And I am like okay sure let's go there. And it was so unplanned, but I had the time of my life. Because, I had nowhere to be. I had all the time in the world to go anywhere I wanted. 

Appalwar: Yeah.

Singh: So I talked to all these travelers, you know. Europeans, Australians. They were back packing around South America, So I told them I had these seven, eight days, and I want to make the most of them. You know. So one of them recommended to me a tiny place. So that place. I mean, I had no idea. I mean, I had never heard about it, you know.  So I booked a bus ticket like the very next day. And when I went there, I was in a hostel room with me and these four other girls. And I mean, we shared together for two nights. We did everything together. Going out. Going to other places. And it was so much fun. I guess it was like Wreck Camp. We bonded so much together. You know? In such a short time. And I guess goodbyes really are hard.

Appalwar: Yeah.

Singh: And like that realization that you're never going to see these people again.

Appalwar: It really hits you.

Singh: It really hits you.

Singh: And then you realize that life is short. You're only going to cross paths with these people once. So you've got to make the most of it. You've got to I don't know. You can't squander time. You can't squander opportunities, because they don't come every day. 

Appalwar: Yeah

Singh: And that's why I would recommend to absolutely everyone, everyone to do a solo trip and to do a study abroad or something. Everyone. 

Produced by Melissa Terry from interviews recorded by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives.
Special thanks to the interview participants, StoryCorps Atlanta, WREK Atlanta 91.1FM, WABE 90.1FM, and Institute Communications