Since 2012, AIIS has been collaborating with the Mid-Atlantic Consortium-Center for Academic Excellence (MAC-CAE) to bring students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities for an intensive two-month summer program in India. MAC-CAE is led by Morgan State University and directed by Dr. Arlene Maclin. Students on the program engage in intensive language study, service learning and also work on their own special projects. During the summer of 2015, nine students from four institutions—Morgan State University, Norfolk State University, Elizabeth City State University and Howard University—participated in the program. The students, who majored in fields including biology, strategic communications, criminal justice and political science, were based in Jaipur and most attained an intermediate proficiency in Hindi during the course of the program.
Priscilla Offei, a junior majoring in biology stated that “India was an amazing experience including the food, the vibrant colors, dresses, language, religions, culture and customs. As I was leaving for India, I was excited. I thought it was about to be just another trip. That was wasn’t the case. It wasn’t just another trip. It was a trip that changed my views and my beliefs. A trip where I made friends that I will keep over a lifetime. A trip that made me appreciate cultural differences. All the words used to describe my trip to India do not beat your experiencing it for yourself.”
Raigan Wheeler, a strategic communications major, noted that the Hindi course she took was “extremely rigorous.” Her career aspirations involve potentially working for a “US agency involved in international relations or international community development.” She stated that “. I would like to work for the government in the U.S. and other countries helping to manage crisis or media situations or political campaigns. I know that having a high competency in critical languages will propel us all into arenas that we never thought we could reach as people of color. I’m so ready to see what having global experience and knowledge in a critical language(s) will do for us (the others in my group). A master’s in international or government relations is definitely in my future!”
Damola Aluko, a senior majoring in political science from Howard University stated that “the MACCAE program is one of the most enriching programs that I have ever participated in. Under this program I received the chance to travel to Jaipur, India and learn Hindi, a very critical language. This program, coupled with the American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS), not only helped me attain intermediate proficiency in a new language but, also exposed me to a beautiful culture. Indian culture is one of the longest lasting cultures in the whole world. When examining it, one can make many intercultural connections and see the impact Indian culture has made on many of the world’s cultures. Learning a new language can be very difficult especially when having to learn a brand new phonetic system/alphabet. Also, being an American, I was very far removed from Indian cultural context. Thanks to great teachers and a very interactive program curriculum, I was able to learn each new lesson in Hindi with very little trouble. My teachers and host family were very accommodating and helped me get acclimated to India’s vastly different cultural terrain.”
Daniel Nobles, a senior majoring in criminal justice from Elizabeth City State University stated “To the teachers in the program, I cannot express how much patience, kindness, and a hint of tough love here and there they demonstrated throughout the entire program. Leaving them was something that I honestly can say was the hardest part about leaving India. I felt that while in India that we gained a true connection with our teachers because you could feel how much they actually wanted to help us learn. Having multiple teachers that truly care about your success is something that I have not seen in a long time.”
Briana Spruill-Harrell, a junior majoring in biology at Norfolk State University summed up her experience by saying “I came to India with little to no expectations because I am an ‘in the moment type of person.’ Reflecting on my experience, I am glad that I did not have any pre-conceived notions about India. Setting foot on Indian soil is an encounter that no one can predict. For me, my experience was coupled with awe, self-reflection, and motivation. This once in a lifetime opportunity compelled me to want to do better. Speaking for myself, I take things such as my friends, my family and my education for granted. Living in India for two months revealed to me how blessed I am and fortunate to live in a society where my necessities are not far out- of- reach. The ultimate lesson learned from my Indian experience was the value of hard work and dedication to get to where I want to be in life. Not everything will be handed to me so I have to press forward in spite of the obstacles to get to my destination.”
Ashley Ashburn, a junior majoring in biology at Norfolk State University stated: “My experience in India was life altering. Stepping outside of my comfort zone and 15,000 miles away from home I was forced to truly think outside the box. Now, I understand what people mean when they say cultural immersion is the key to truly learning foreign languages. I can say that I have retained and learned more Hindi while staying in India for two months than Spanish while sitting in a classroom for nearly 4+ years. Going to India showed me many things including that we are not as different across continents as we think however, we are extremely blessed. This experience opened my eyes to what real life is all about. It also gave me a home away from home…I hope to go back to India soon and study abroad in various countries while pursing both my PhD and MD after undergraduate school. India will always be my home away from home and have a strong place in my heart.”
The experiences of three of the students were highlighted in an article “Two months in India opened their eyes” written by Corinne Saunders for the Daily Advance, that appeared on August 13, 2015 (https://www.dailyadvance.com/features/two-months-india-opened-their-eyes-2954909) The two months spent in India “marked the first trip out of the country for [the three students featured in the article], and they said they came back more appreciative of many aspects of life in America, but also seeing ways in which their homeland can improve.” Students Dwayne Ponton and Kiana Rivers “both hope to go to law school; all three students are considering eventually working for government intelligence agencies. The three said that their intensive study of the Hindi language was difficult but beneficial.”
AIIS hopes to welcome fifteen MAC-CAE students in India for the summer of 2016.