Year-long Indian study: Students take part in new exchange program

Sophomores Maggie Stewart and Ida Araya are not going to start their junior year at Eastern. In fact, they won’t be in the United States at all.

Stewart and Araya will be the first two students to participate in the new student exchange program between Eastern and the Women’s Christian College in Chennai, India, from June through October of this year.

“I’m so psyched,” Stewart said. “The more we talk about it, the more excited I get.”

According to Stephanie McTavish, vice president of Asian Relations in the Provost’s Office, this is the first two-semester exchange program in Eastern’s history. It will hopefully open the doors to more programs including the possibility of a program with a men’s school in Chennai.

Chennai is an industrial city located on the east coast of the Bay of Bengal in South India. It has a strong middle class and is the fourth largest city in India. Located in the high-tech belt of India, Chennai is rich in culture and has its fair share of stories, including the legend of St. Thomas’ martyrdom which occurred there. WCC is an old school with many minorities in its student body, including Christians, Hindus and Muslims. A highly academic school, WCC is located in the city, creating an urban feeling around the campus.

“It’s a very strong program that grooms its students for success,” McTavish said.

Both Stewart and Araya learned about the program through Dr. Laura Hartley, director of programs in the Templeton Honors College. What started as a meeting about possible study abroad options turned into an informational session about the new program.

“Everything about the India program made me completely forget about the other ones I wanted to go to,” Stewart said. “I knew right away I wanted to go. Everything about India enchants me – especially the food and clothes!”

According to Araya, both girls are going to stay with a host family in Chennai, learning first-hand about the culture and greatly reducing room and board costs. Their tuition price is the same at WCC as it is here at Eastern.

Stewart plans on taking courses in physics and Indian dance, while Araya will take courses in anthropology and economics. Both students will also take courses in archaeology, South Eastern art and economics, adding up to five courses during the semester. All of these classes will transfer to their major and minor requirements.

Eastern has never tried an exchange program like this before. According to McTavish, this program will allow long-term intercultural relations between Eastern and other universities around the world, globalizing our mission statement.

“It is a bold initiative from the Provost’s Office, but it will ultimately offer programs with real immersion into another culture,” McTavish said.

Two Indian women will be exchanged from WCC in spring ’09, completing the exchange started by Stewart and Araya.

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