by Danielle Corcione
Fall 2014 Chapter President
Omega Omega Chapter
Ramapo College of New Jersey, Mahwah, NJ
This spring, I studied abroad in Bangalore, India. After spending three weeks in Prague last summer, I was inspired to pursue a semester-long program focusing on sustainable development. Technically, it wasn’t academically oriented on literature or language; however, I saw this as a challenge, and I was thrilled to pursue a different kind of opportunity.
While there are more programs that aren’t focused around literature (compared to those that are), study abroad programs still incorporate literature in order to learn about host countries. I learned how imperialism intersects with the humanities. In my Indian Culture and Society course, I read an English translation of Samskara, U. R. Ananthamurthy’s 1965 novel. The story takes place in a Brahmin settlement in pre-liberated, rural India outside of the Western Ghats. The time period indicates a political significance. It compares the sixties to the time shortly before the end of British rule. (India gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1947.) As an imperialist art, the narrative form echoes a French existentialist structure, and English translation inherently exaggerates this influence.
There was plenty of time for independent reading. I stayed in an ashram in the countryside, about fifteen kilometers outside the city, which fostered an ideal, relaxed atmosphere for any bibliophile. According to my Goodreads account, I read thirty-nine books during my trip including Hind Swaraj, Mohandas Gandhi’s most monumental work about his opinions on Indian traditions, modern civilization, and industrialization, and Half Girlfriend, a bestselling novel published in India last year by Chetan Bhagat. When a university friend rejects the protagonist’s request to take her out on a date, she agrees to be his “half girlfriend.” The country’s patriarchy speaks loudly here.
For our final projects, my class conducted independent fieldwork. I researched Adivasi women that were affected by tribal displacement. In the Western Ghats, tribal communities are forced out of their natural habitats. For many, they’ve lived inside the forest, where their ancestors have dwelled for centuries. I used the oral tradition as a medium to learn about their culture and interviewed women about stories that have been passed down for generations. Predominately, their stories focused on holiday celebrations, honoring their ancestors, and prayers.
Jump outside your comfort zone. I encourage all members of Sigma Tau Delta to pursue study abroad. It’s an excellent opportunity to expand and challenge your academic experience. Don’t shut out programs that may not be concentrated on English literature. It could be an opportunity to diversify your college experience.
Scholarships to Help Fund a Study Aboard Experience
The Summer Program Scholarship provides up to $1,500 for the purposes of attending a special summer program, either in the U.S. or abroad, which furthers the applicant’s engagement with Sigma Tau Delta’s mission. Qualifying summer programs must be at least three weeks in length and no longer than three months. Applicants should demonstrate academic scholarship and chapter service and must explain the relevance of their summer program to fostering their engagement in the discipline of English, including literature, language, writing, or literacy.
The Study Abroad Scholarship provides up to $3,000 for the purposes of studying in a program that furthers the applicant’s engagement with Sigma Tau Delta’s mission for an academic term or year in a certified, undergraduate program outside the country in which the nominating chapter is located. Applicants should demonstrate academic scholarship and chapter service; they also must explain the relevance of their study abroad program and activities to fostering the discipline of English, including literature, language, writing, or literacy.
Applications will be accepted between September 7 and November 9, 2015.