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Overton going to India for Rotary group study exchange

by Prufer

Travis Overton has been busy doing all those non-fun things you have to do when you travel oversees – posing for passport pictures, getting your inoculations, taking malaria medicine, making a month's worth of clothes fit into one suitcase.

Overton is traveling to India for a month in mid-November with five other South Carolinians as part of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange program. It is a cultural and vocational exchange opportunity for businesspeople and professionals between the ages of 25 and 40 who are in the early stages of their careers.

For four weeks, team members experience the host country's culture and institutions, observe how their vocations are practiced abroad, develop personal and professional relationships, and exchange ideas.

Overton, who is in his second year as director of student conduct, will spend time with administrators who have the equivalent of his job at universities in India.

"I'm so interested to learn how student misbehavior is handled in a country like India," says Overton, whose favorite motto is from Gandhi: "You must be the change you want to see in this world."

"I want to know how that culture deals with conflict and accountability," says Overton. "The school of thought over there is very different; it focuses more on how you are in control of your destiny. I hope to bring back some of those ideas to Coastal."

From his research so far, Overton has learned that college students in the third world country are more serious and respectful of authority, particularly their professors. "I was told that students stand when their professor enters the classroom," he says.

The Carolina Forest Rotary is sponsoring Overton on the team. Other team members include a local firefighter and three professionals from Columbia – a University of South Carolina law professor, a Richland County deputy sheriff and a lawyer. Mary Martin, a retired human resources director who lives in Little River, will be the team leader.

"Not only have I never been to India, but I've never been out of the country," says Overton, who has been at CCU since 2007 and started out as coordinator of Greek Life.

Once in Chandigarh, India, Overton and the other team members will stay with host families for a "total immersion" experience. His hope is to see the Taj Mahal in Agra, and he's talking to CCU faculty and staff who were born in India and who have visited there.

In a typical four-week tour, applicants participate in five full days of vocational visits, 15 to 20 club presentations, 10 to 15 formal visits and social events, two to three days at the district conference, three to four hours per day of cultural and site tours, and three to four hours per day of free time with host families.

"As Americans we are so focused on ourselves," says Overton. "My team members were talking about missing Thanksgiving, and we wondered if they might celebrate it over there. Then it occurred to us that of course they wouldn't because it's a holiday that celebrates the founding of this country!

"Part of our mission is to spread good will. We hope to bridge some of the gap of our differences. After all, we are more alike than we are different."

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