While you may hear broad, sweeping statements about India, anyone who has spent time in the world’s second most populated country knows that it is a place of dizzying variation and diversity, be it linguistic, religious, political, or otherwise. And so it is no surprise that second-year South Asian Studies MAIS student Quinn Clark found his summer language study to be more than just an in-classroom experience.
Clark said that he was attracted to the educational opportunity because of strong reputation of the language programs of the American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS). “Honestly, I was just thinking that I’d be able to use my summer productively and finish up my language requirements in Hindi. The fact that I’d spend my program in India just meant to me that it would optimize my language learning.” Clark had studied intermediate Hindi at UW the preceding year. Using FLAS fellowships awarded by the UW’s South Asia Center, he completed advanced Hindi – his program requires third-year proficiency in a South Asian language – through the AIIS summer program in Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan. Upon completion of the summer program, he was be able to bump up into intermediate Urdu in the 2014-2015 academic year due to linguistic similarities between the two languages and advanced standing in Hindi.
Clark found his experience far richer than he expected. “In retrospect, it was a little silly to think of my summer abroad program only in the cold calculus of optimizing productivity and enhancing my academic portfolio. It was also just fun.” Choosing to live with a homestay family to further improve his Hindi, as opposed to living in an apartment with another student, he developed a warm, affectionate relationship with his host family. “I think they considered me so much a part of the family,” he recalled laughingly, “that they would sometimes dote over me a bit. By the time dadi ji [grandmother] started ordering me around and assigning me chores, I knew I’d been adopted to some extent.” While AIIS is considered one of the most well-respected language centers in India for South Asian languages, he was also able to take advantage of the many opportunities for travel in India in addition to his coursework expectations. “[AIIS’ curriculum] was no walk in the park. They work you pretty hard, and it pays off. But students can also do all the things they hope to when traveling abroad.”
One of those things resulted in academic benefits beyond just language competency. Clark said that he was able to use a long weekend to do preliminary research for his program. “Everyone else traveled in groups for a vacation. I went solo to some dargahs (Sufi shrines) in Rajasthan – Ajmer and Nagaur – in hopes of finding some research sources. The trip was a lot of fun, and it turned out to be hugely fruitful. I’m actually in the process of writing one of my MA papers on the texts that I stumbled upon.” He plans on using the texts found on this trip as the basis for his PhD dissertation in Religious Studies, which he will start in the fall of 2015. “There are just so many things that you can access when you’re in the country that you’re studying. The biggest one for students of language would be, in my opinion, an educational environment in which everyone is using the target language.”
AIIS Applications for Summer and Year Study of Hindi are now open. The deadline is December 15th 2015. For more information visit the AIIS website.