As the bus drove away, these simple English words were all my host family could express through their overwhelming sobs, and they are still the words I hear during our regular fumbling Skype conversations. American English Translation of “Full Feeling” = “I am very sad. I miss you.” Entering the small village of Belchawedi in Southern India, I felt empowered to know I would be helping a community through various service projects. However that empowerment felt like arrogance as I realized the true joy derived from creating relationships with incredibly compassionate, inspiring people. Trudging through language barriers, I was able to establish a connection so strong it erased my embarrassing and oftentimes offensive cultural mistakes, transcends borders and time zones, and allowed me to find so much comfort amidst so much disorientation that I had never felt more at ease with myself. In doing so, I made a fool out of myself in every way possible- crying at the perplexing gender roles, dancing the Macarena, and futilely attempting to explain who I was in an incomprehensible language. But it wasn’t my academic or leadership accomplishments that could be translated, only the love, energy, and attitude I exuded could be.
Months after arriving back in the states, every time I hear any member of my vast Indian family excitedly ask, “Oota ita?” (Have you eaten dinner?), I am reminded of what truly matters. After a poorly executed math exam threatens college acceptance or a particularly disastrous fight with my dorm counselor about regulation room decorations, I Skype with my sister-in-law, brother, niece, or neighbor in our own special mixture of languages, sounds, and laughter that my roommates regularly mock. “Full feeling” has now become a personal mantra. It no longer represents the painful distance between myself and Belachawedi, but rather a token that every relationship and action should evoke the fullest extent of emotions. The fullest extent of who I am.