Trip gives insight into international urban planning
Cassandra Caiger (MPL’13) vividly remembers her first few hours in India. “The heat hits you, and then the jetlag hits you,” she recalls with a laugh. “It felt strange but exciting.”
She and nine classmates, together with their professor, Dr. Ajay Agarwal, travelled to Auroville, India, in December as part of a course. But the second-year students didn’t have much time for culture shock.
After spending the fall term doing background research on Auroville, an intentionally-planned community steeped in sustainable building practices, the students had just over 10 days to prepare a planning report they could present to their host city.
Arriving at their guest-house at 4 am after a long flight from Canada, the students awoke to a busy, but stimulating, schedule. Breaking into small groups, they spent their days interviewing residents, visiting sites, and trying to get a sense of how social spaces are used in Auroville.
“We treated it as if we were coming in as consultants,” says Ms Caiger about the experience. She admits that by the time they were ready to give a public presentation about their findings, the group was exhausted – but satisfied with what they’d achieved.
“It was a tremendous learning experience,” says Ms Caiger. “We had to overcome the cultural differences while also eating, sleeping and doing activities all day with nine other people, and creating a product together!”
Ms Caiger says she hopes to pursue international work in the future, and says her eyes have been opened to the possibilities in India. “It’s such a complex country,” she says. “It’s growing so quickly and they have recognized their need for planning. It was an amazing opportunity to get even the smallest perspective on working in that culture.”
The students will give a public presentation about their experiences in Auroville on Wednesday, January 23 from 12-1pm in Robert Sutherland Hall, Room 554.
To read more about their experiences, you can also visit their blog.