Iowa Winterim Program
American students and faculty from the University of Iowa visit India for three weeks to collaborate, participate with, and learn directly from many dynamic social, educational and research organizations and entrepreneurs.
Rodney Maiden exited the Madurai airport at 3:30 a.m. gripped by excitement and anticipation. Given that his only experience traveling outside the United States had been a cruise to the Bahamas, he wasn’t sure what to expect. But he soon found out, and was “amazed at how alive the city was so early in the morning.” Having arrived with a group of 25 students from the University of Iowa, Maiden quickly realized that he was not in Iowa anymore.
Maiden and the other students were in India as part of the India Winterim study aboard program. It was started in the winter of 2006-2007 by Professor R. Rajagopal. He was seeking to create a program in which “participating students and faculty shared, learned and taught by directly interacting with the staff of leading entrepreneurial organizations within the cultural, socioeconomic, geographic and environmental diversity that is India.” Over three weeks, students and faculty collaborate, participate with, and learn directly from many dynamic social, educational and research organizations and entrepreneurs.
Study Abroad Programs in India
The program began with 17 students, two faculty, one course, and three partner institutions and has grown to 147 students, 15 faculty, 8 to 10 courses, and over 20 partner institutions in India. Organizations and entrepreneurs are chosen that employ a diverse array of principles and techniques to address social, environmental, health and economic problems such as poverty, unemployment, livelihood enhancement, healthcare for the poor, literacy, community waste management, child labor, schools for the handicapped, women empowerment and other areas of interest. Rajagopal was proud to note that each year they take more students and also “offer one of the most diverse set of hands-on, on-the ground, UI courses in India compared to any other university in the U.S.”
Students apply to the program for a variety of reasons. Tessa Quintero, who attended in the winter of 2011-2012 in Madurai, chose the program because she wanted to broaden her “perspective on the complex economic and social issues facing a rapidly developing country such as India. I also wanted to learn about healthcare programs targeted at low income populations.” Quintero focused on healthcare and women’s financial independence. “I truly enjoyed learning about the people’s cultural values and hearing their stories. Overall, it was a very enriching experience that I will be able to reflect on for the rest of my life. I gained an understanding of the magnitude of issues facing their healthcare system and learned valuable strategies for providing resources to low income populations,” she says. Since returning to the United States, Quintero believes that her “experience will be very applicable in a career of healthcare administration.”
Maiden, a Ph.D. student, chose to attend the program to experience new cultures and focused on learning how children and persons with disabilities were treated in India. He arrived with minimal expectations, and left feeling overwhelmed from the experiences he encountered and people he met. “There are so many injustices in the world, and the program really showed me that I need to take off my blinders.” When asked if he would recommend the program to others, he stated that “there is no way that I can define it in words. It is well worth it. The return on the trip has been 110 percent.”
In recent years, the program has seen an exponential growth in student and faculty interest. Rajagopal hopes that in the next three years, with significant endowment support, they will be able “to cultivate, enrich and enhance the opportunities for the participation of 30 to 40 faculty/research scholars from the university’s various colleges and divisions and over 500 UI undergraduate, graduate students and alumni.” He is focusing on securing more funding for student scholarships, as these have always been a challenge. “If we could support all deserving students with a modest $1,500 to $2,000 winter scholarship, we would see an exponential growth in student interests to explore a different culture, especially exploring a vast country like India.”
Kaitlin McVey is a writer living in Seattle, Washington.blog comments powered by Disqus