Namaste Mike-ji and Margie-ji,
Jaatinai hunuhunchha? Greetings! I hope this email finds you both well. Margie, it was wonderful to see you (for far too short a time) in Kalimpong when I was back visiting. Mike, the families I visited in Bung Busty were all very excited to tell me about your visit earlier this year. What a welcoming community! I had such a good visit after two years of being away.
I wanted to get in touch with both of you about the possibility of a job opening with the Pitzer program in Darjeeling and/or the Pitzer program in Nepal, which I understand will be up and running again beginning this coming August. I would be very interested in working with the program at either location.
Living in a foreign culture is a potentially transformative experience for college students, offering them the opportunity to see and participate in different ways of existing in the world and in community, different meanings of family and different methods of interpreting the events surrounding them. While studying abroad, students may gain insights into themselves, their families and their home cultures. Such growth involves challenges as well as rewards. These may include challenges to one’s preconceived notions of other people, stereotypes, beliefs and even behaviors. Pitzer’s Program in Darjeeling, an intensive cultural immersion program, offers a framework in which students can interpret and process their experiences and the struggles and successes that accompany these.
Having a safe space to debrief is integral to having a positive cross-cultural experience, and Pitzer’s program provides such a space at the Program House, where teachers and staff are ready to listen to students as they share. The time I have spent living in different cultures (growing up in South Africa 1984-1990, New Hampshire 1990-1995, Zimbabwe 1995-2000 and Ohio 2000-2006), transitioning from one culture to another and specifically the semester that I spent in Kalimpong learning Nepali culture and language have equipped me with a wealth of experience and knowledge to share with students.
Issues such as sexual orientation, class, poverty, religious affiliation, body image and race may present themselves in unfamiliar and unique ways within Nepali culture, and students may find themselves grappling with these and other issues afresh. Even though the United States, school and family feel distant from the rolling hills of Kalimpong, students leave behind them families, relationships and friends that continue to grow and develop despite the distance, and it is important to provide students with a space to process with events at home. While the teachers and Margie offer needed support, I would be able to assist them in these roles.
Another important aspect of working wiht Pitzer’s program would be to provide academic guidance to students particularly in respect to the DYO and ISP projects. Meeting regularly with students in advance to discuss their ideas and the corresponding opportunities in the area will help students think of viable topics that suit their unique interests.
To fully engae with another culture, one must engage with the people. The relationships that students build in Kalimpong with their fellow students, teachers, host family and community give shape and flesh to the experience. I know that the relationships I have built with the community in Bung Busty have the potential of lasting my entire life, and the memories certainly will. Upon my return to visit Bung Busty in May, I found the relationships I had built two years ago to still be strong and positive. I see the heart of my work with Pitzer’s program, whether it would be in Kalimpong or in Nepal, as being to build relationships with the people of the community and with the students and then encouraging and facilitating students to do the same. I am excited to share my love of and enthusiasm for Nepali language and culture with students.
I hope that there will be two placement openings to work with the Pitzer program this coming year (beginning either fall 2007 or spring 2008), and I look forward to hearing from both of you about the possibility of me working with Pitzer in either Kalimpong or in Nepal.
Margie-ji, I hope the last month of the program goes well. I am sure it will fly. Have fun with the Pitzer group that arrives on the 25th. And Mike-ji, I hope and your family are well.