Having spent two years in Spain as a graduate student and, decades later, moving from his native India to the U.S. to teach at Monmouth College, Vasant Gadre has firsthand knowledge of what it’s like to adjust to a new culture. Next August, he’ll put that knowledge to good use when he serves as Faculty Coordinating Representative for the ACM India: Culture, Traditions, & Globalization program.
An Assistant Professor of Spanish at Monmouth, Gadre will be at the program site in Pune during the fall 2010 program orientation, helping the students get acclimated to India and providing guidance as they plan their independent study projects.
“The first few days and weeks in Pune are going to be very important for the students,” said Gadre. “My role will be to help them be a little more confident about themselves and about their new environment.” Gadre’s background makes him particularly well-suited to the task.
As a native of Maharashtra, Gadre’s first language was Marathi, the language that is taught on the ACM program. When he was a young child, his family moved north to Delhi, where Hindi is the dominant language. Still, Marathi was spoken at home, and years later Gadre drew on his facility with the language to translate La familia de Pascual Duarte, by Nobel Prize-winning author Camilo José Cela, from Spanish to Marathi.
Gadre began graduate school in English language and literature at Delhi University – “There were thousands of other people doing the same thing,” he said – but decided to switch to a less popular field where there might be more career options. His university happened to be starting up a program in Spanish, the first Indian university to do so, and Gadre enrolled. “I was lucky,” he said. “About five students registered, and at the end of two years I was the only one who passed.” The government of Spain offered him a scholarship to attend graduate school there, and off he went to study in Madrid for two years.
Gadre fell in love with Spain, and his experience made him a firm believer in the value of study abroad. “It was probably the best decision I ever made, because it taught me so many things about myself,” he explained. “It’s not just about another culture and how to adjust to it and to enjoy it – that is just one aspect. But more than that, after this stay abroad I was a whole new person. I was more confident and I was less afraid to take chances in order to live life fully.”
Students on the fall 2009 ACM India: Culture, Traditions, & Globalization program.
On his return to India, Gadre began teaching Spanish, getting his start at his alma mater, Delhi University. Three years later he became a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, where he taught for many years and served for two years as dean of the School of Language, Literature, and Culture Studies, the largest of the university’s schools.
Then, in middle age, Gadre again tested his ability to adapt to a new culture, as he left his senior university position in India to live in the U.S. It has turned out to be another good decision.
“Monmouth has been great,” said Gadre. “It’s a very small town compared to where I was. In Delhi, there were 17 million people, and here we have 10,000, so it was a big contrast. But people are warm and friendly, and I didn’t have any problems adjusting to the town.”
Gadre found contrasts in the classroom, as well. “As far as academics went, there were differences between how we taught our students in India and how students are taught here,” he said. “In India, the teacher is the one who dominates the show, whereas here there’s more participation. I got used to it, and I think it’s much better when there’s a dialogue between the teacher and the students.”
As the Faculty Coordinating Representative in India, Gadre will be, in effect, a cultural translator, helping the Indian teachers and independent study advisors understand the American students, and working to ease the students into everyday life in Pune. It’s a role he relishes.
“I think that in view of my experience in India, having lived there almost all my life, and, of course, now having been exposed to American life and academics, I can be that bridge to help students make the transition from American life to Indian life,” said Gadre. ““I’m really looking forward to it, because this is something that absolutely fascinates me.”
- Learn more about the ACM India: Culture, Traditions, & Globalization program.