A year from now, ACM will launch India: Development Studies & Hindi Language, a new off-campus study program for undergraduates that blends academic study with hands-on experience to provide a multi-faceted exploration of the challenges of economic and social development in India.
Students will have opportunities to compare regional perspectives by living in two distinctive cities, to be involved in the daily work of a non-governmental organization (NGO) during a structured practicum, and to immerse themselves in Indian culture and society through language study, home stays, and field trips.
Street scene in Pune.
The spring semester program will start in early January, 2015, with 11 weeks of courses and activities in Pune, Maharashtra. The scene will then shift to a city in northern India – most likely Jaipur, Rajasthan – where students will engage in a four-week practicum and continue their Hindi language class. The program will also offer a winter quarter/trimester option, which will include only the segment in Pune.
The program’s emphasis on development studies and Hindi – one of the most widely-spoken languages in the country, especially in the north – grew out of discussions with faculty advisors for the India Program, according to Joan Gillespie, ACM Vice President and Director of Off-Campus Study Programs.
“The faculty thought there should be an opportunity for students to compare different regions of India, since regional identity remains very strong and resources can vary so widely from place to place,” she said. “For example, development in the area around Pune is spurred by its proximity to Mumbai, which is a very robust economic and financial center. Development opportunities in northern India, though, can be quite different.”
A student with a member of her host family in Pune.
Photo credit: Sarah Fischer
Living in both Pune and a northern city such as Jaipur, Gillespie noted, will give students a richer context for understanding the challenges India faces, as a nation, in addressing development-related issues like poverty, education, and public health.
Hands-on experiences with NGOs – during the practicum, as well as in volunteering with community groups in Pune – offer another avenue for gaining insights. Students will be involved with organizations that are working at a grassroots level, such as promoting women’s empowerment through microbusinesses or supporting locally-based children’s health initiatives.
“The efforts of these groups may appear to be tiny and incremental in the big, national picture,” said Gillespie. “If you look at the effect within a small community, though, they may be improving people’s lives in significant ways. In the practicum, a student will have the chance to see how one of these organizations operates and, in some way, contribute to the organization and its work. That can be a powerful learning experience.”
Students in the fall semester India Program on a field trip to the rock-cut caves at Ellora, a World Heritage Site in Maharashtra.
The new program will build on ACM’s 45-year history of offering students an immersion in Indian society and culture, as it joins the fall semester India: Culture, Traditions, & Globalization program and the eight-week India: Summer Service Learning & Cultural Immersion program to give students a variety of academic and calendar options.
“The portion of the program based in Pune will be taught and administered by our experienced on-site faculty and staff, led by Program Director Sucheta Paranjpe,” Gillespie said. “We expect that the final month of the program will be located in Jaipur, which is a fascinating city that provides distinct contrasts to Pune.”
Information about the program and how to apply are available on the India: Development Studies & Hindi Language webpage. Students from any college or university who will be sophomores, juniors, or seniors during the program are eligible to apply. The early application deadline for the 2015 program (spring semester or winter quarter/trimester) is March 15 and the final deadline is October 15.