As a 2005 University of Wisconsin Oshkosh graduate, Tina Moritz, a social science major, learned about the world through books, but never took the chance to experience it first-hand by studying abroad.
So Moritz was full of excitement when she set off for a month-long trip to India aboard a 15-hour flight, as part of Rotary International’s Group Study Exchange program.
“I couldn’t help staying awake,” Moritz said. “I was still bewildered by what exactly I would be doing on this life-changing journey.”
Rotary International, a worldwide organization of more than 1.2 million business, professional and community leaders, provide humanitarian services, encourage high ethical standards in all occupations and help build goodwill and peace in the world.
“I was lucky to be selected for such an opportunity,” Moritz said.
As a Group Study Exchange team member, Moritz had read the handbook and knew that she would have to devote at least five vocational days to visiting schools, attending a district Rotary conference and meetings and visiting additional Rotary projects. She was given a schedule just before leaving.
But her biggest and most pleasurable experiences were unplanned and took place with her host families.
“Their hospitality, kindness and openness to my interruption in their family lives were unbelievable and gratefully appreciated,” she said.
Moritz was treated as a daughter, sister and friend. While there, she was shown weddings and blessings and invited to every festival and holy day.
“They have such a rich history still alive and existing within their communities,” she said.
One memorable festival she took part in was called Jai Shivaji, a celebration of a well-loved king of the Maratha Empire.
Moritz was awed by the culturally rich environment that the Indian people have created.
She is now working to become a Rotarian and hopes to develop a relationship-building curriculum that will strengthen the ties between the U.S. and India.
“Acceptance and appreciation for such a vibrant culture is a must as many in our melting-pot society, including me, have lost much of our heritage throughout the years,” she said. “I am excited to see how far I can take all that I have learned and am so thankful for all of those who helped me participate in this extraordinary experience.”