Time to start thinking about study and work abroad
Office of Study Abroad offers many options, in more than 100 countries
A new magazine of study abroad experience debuts
India’s third most populous city, Bangalore is a bundle of contradictions -- skyscrapers bordered by slums, a hi-tech economy side-by-side with crippling poverty, traditional architecture surrounded by factories and office buildings.
Amidst this dissonance, David Wilkerson ’12 travels on a local bus to the government school where he is carrying out eye pre-screenings as an intern for Youth for Seva, a nonprofit organization based in India. He is simultaneously trying to decipher the complicated bus schedule, which is in Banaglore’s native Telagu language, and clutching his seat for dear life as the overcrowded bus makes its way speedily down hot, crowded streets.
Wilkerson, surrounded by native South Indians, sticks out like a sore thumb. Western tourism not being as prevalent in the south of India as in the west, it is not uncommon for his blonde hair and fair skin to attract open stares. “When I got on the wrong bus, it felt like the whole of India saw me get on the wrong bus!” he recalls.
Many Brandeis students have analogous experiences on their way to acquiring rewarding insights into the global diversity of peoples and cultures. Wilkerson, an anthropology and pre-medical major, is among an estimated 40 percent of Brandeisians who spend time studying or interning abroad, most during their junior year.
|Susan Pakin photo of a Hui man in Xi'an, in northern China|
The Office of Study Abroad, in affiliation with other international education organizations, offers a wide variety of programs spanning more than a hundred different countries and a multitude of majors and interests. A major on-campus event at which representatives of the Brandeis office and 45 cooperating programs disseminate information and answer questions about the study abroad experience and application process will be held Thursday, Sept.15, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Levin Ballroom.
Want to know more about the experiences of other students abroad? Grab a copy of Wander, a magazine founded by Jake Laband and others with support from the Office of Study Abroad and the Office of Global Affairs. The magazine seeks to highlight the process of exploration, adventure and discovery that happens while students aren’t at Brandeis.
As a freshman, Wilkerson’s passion for South Asian culture was ignited by an Introduction to South Asian Studies course, after which he decided he wanted to minor in the subject. Three years later, as a fellow of the Brandeis-India Initiative, which provides grants for students to pursue internships in India, he went to work for Youth for Seva, a nonprofit children’s services organization which, among other things, seeks to correct vision defects in children attending government schools in the Bangalore area. Taking full advantage of the study abroad resources Brandeis provides helped him to visualize his intention of having what he calls “a meaningful experience abroad."
Wilkerson says he had little in common with the people he was surrounded with this summer and he feels he learned a lot from each and every one of them.
For any student studying abroad, the greatest cultural barrier to cross is language. Wilkerson managed to master a few key phrases in the complex Telagu and Kannad language, but he says that the greatest facilitator of communication was mutual respect and curiosity for each other’s culture.
Many premed students at Brandeis University fear their course load makes it very difficult for them to consider studying abroad.
However, Wilkerson was firm in his belief that making the effort to spend time abroad was something every student should try to do. He says that if someone feels taking a semester off is impractical, that person should consider a summer internship in a foreign country in order to discover a wider range of cultures and broaden one’s horizons.