CSB/SJU has a new addition to the list of education abroad programs offered: India.
“At CSB/SJU, we had been planning to start a study abroad program in India for several years: Three different faculty development trips and one short-term program in January laid the foundations for this semester long program, “ said Madhu Mitra, a CSB/SJU professor advising the spring 2011 trip.
The program is located in the eastern part of the country in the city of Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta).
According to CSB/SJU Education Abroad Website, the CSB/SJU students are enrolled in one class at St. Xavier’s College, taking a Study Abroad Seminar and courses in Bengali language, culture, arts and the history of India.
The students are staying with host families from various parts of Kolkata. Mitra said students are continuously discovering new restaurants, shops, bookstores and markets. They are completely emerged into a different culture.
“The program also offers an option for at least two longer excursions to other parts of India besides several short trips around Kolkata, to the mountains as well as the seas,” spring 2012 faculty director and an economics professor Sucharita Mukherjee said.
While abroad, students are required to spend six to eight hours per week on site with a volunteer or service organization. Service learning is a major component of the program.
Loreto Day School is one of the sites students are volunteering at. It is a school for females ranging from preschool through high school. The school is a mix of upper and middle class with the underprivileged students. CSB/SJU students play games and tutor the children. Other areas that students are volunteering at include working with gay rights and women rights.
Mukherjee said, “As made clear from President Obama’s recent trip to the country, political and economic ties between India and the U.S. would only grow with time. It is therefore an opportune time to give our students a chance to study in India, appreciate the differences and get a first experience of a country they could have potential connections with in the future.”
Mitra expresses pride for the current CSB/SJU students studying abroad in India.
“They have been amazingly patient and cooperative, open to sudden change of plans and quick to adapt to completely new living conditions and a radically different education system.”
State elections are coming up in May in Kolkata.
“Everyone is specially tuned into these elections because for the first time in three decades, the ruling party in West Bengal (the Communist party of India–Marxist, or CPIM) is facing the prospect of heavy losses, perhaps even a defeat,” Mitra said.
Due to this semester being the first that the education office has sent students to India, Peggy Retka, the OEA program adviser and Education Abroad adviser, spent the first two and a half weeks in Kolkata with the students. Retka reports that there have been politically motivated rallies and violent reactions in India, but none of the CSB/SJU students are involved, They do get to see some demonstrations, sit-ins and strikes. Retka said that her office monitors what might be affecting the area the students are in, how the students can be smart and how they can protect themselves.
According to their Website, CSB/SJU education abroad program thinks it is important that students can study and learn from this so called “up and coming area”.