The CASI team at Leap Skills Academy has been hard at work for just over a week. We started with meetings in Delhi and then migrated north to Yamuna Nagar to assist in the planning of Leap’s summer programming for 10th-12th grade students, namely the Propeller program. Before arriving in Delhi I felt confident that I had prepared thoroughly for this adventure. I had composed research questions for my final portfolio project, which must be directly related to my internship (it will also be my final submission as an Intercultural Communication student). I had also read many reports on skills development initiatives in India for a fascinating Higher Ed course I partook in last semester. I had even written an additional research proposal about language diversity and education in Haryana, the state in which Yamuna Nagar lies, for a very motivating course on Indigenous Education and Language Revitalization. And, finally, I had dusted off my rucksack and filled it with breathable clothes and granola bars in preparation for a brutally sweaty summer. As it turns out, no amount of travel experience or preparatory research can give you a full picture what it will feel like to live, work, and research in a new environment.
[Another uncontrollable variable is access to power before important deadlines! Pictured: The Leap team completing our first draft of the STEP institutional report during a power outage.]
Having lived, traveled and worked as an English teacher in China and traveled extensively through Asia over the past few years, including a few places in northeastern India last spring, I had already experienced the initial wonder and confusion associated with landing in a sweltering city with just my belongings and expectations. Armed with experience and fresh knowledge, and a collection of disparate research questions, I thought that I was heading to nerdy research heaven. However, my past experiences traveling for leisure in India and working in China differ greatly from my current reality working as an intern and researcher in India.
[Pictured: Me and my friend Shila in Sikkim during my first visit to India.]
In Ed Linguistics terms like multilingual, bilingual, biliterate, and others are often used to describe learning contexts. We muse on language resources and communicative repertoires as if diversity is calculable, or at least a rationally negotiable. Entering India with these ideas about language has encouraged me to entirely reevaluate my concept of language diversity. I have realized that sometimes the things we take for granted while making a new home away from home aren’t just familiar dairy products or washroom routines. Rather, they are seemingly concrete notions of humanity or difference that impede or expand our understanding of others.
[Pictured: Fellow intern Eileen learning about time management and teamwork in a seminar for potential Propeller students]
This is all just a long way of saying that after just ten days on the job my research questions are growing in new and surprising directions, and my objective, which was to extend my understanding of contexts for learning and language-conscious education, is transforming. My hope is that a smidgen of clarity is gained this summer in what I hope will become an ongoing relationship with a beautiful country.
[The busy streets of Yamuna Nagar]