I began studying Hindi in my first semester at the University of Minnesota and knew immediately that I wanted to study abroad. After studying Hindi for a couple more years, I chose the Minnesota Studies in International Development program in India because of the program’s emphasis on development theory and experiential learning. While participating in the program, my classes included a country analysis focused on Indian history, culture, and politics; a developmental theory course; Hindi language classes; and a volunteer internship with an Indian non-governmental organization (NGO).
I lived with a host family during the first part of the program, and even though they all spoke English, I tried to convince them to speak only in Hindi with me. I also spent a lot of time talking with friendly locals and shopkeepers in Jaipur, many of whom were delighted to speak with an American who knew Hindi. For the second half of the program, I moved to a more rural area of India to participate in an internship. This was probably the most intensive part of my whole learning experience, because I lived in the NGO facilities, where the staff knew little to no English. The internship also drove home the actual difficulties and frustrations of trying to implement development tactics at the grassroots level.
During this second part of the program my language skills really improved. I moved from the intermediate low level before departure to the intermediate high level after my return. My goal is to eventually be fluent in Hindi. The Boren Scholarship helped me progress towards that goal, and I am more motivated than ever to continue studying Hindi and improve my language skills.
My Boren experience not only improved my language skills and cultural understanding, but it also influenced my academic and professional goals. I am still working towards my degree at the University of Minnesota, but I hope to fulfill my service requirement in a position that relates to my interests in human rights and international law. I am currently looking for positions within the Department of State.
Every day in India was a lesson in cultural understanding and, even though I am now back in the United States, I continue to reflect on and learn from the time I spent as a Boren Scholar. The Boren Scholarship allowed me to have an experience that changed me and will continue to influence me indefinitely.
Written: October 2010