Story posted October 18, 2011
Elizabeth Christoforetti, Bowdoin College (A.B. Religion and Art), 2000; Harvard University (MArch), 2009
I spend my time designing (architecture, interiors and public space), teaching (graduate and undergraduate architecture), and enjoying the free moments with my family (Bradford, 18 mos, and Jeff, 34).
I had been studying with Professor Holt at Bowdoin with a brief introduction to Sri Lanka via religion. I thought it was fantastic, Sri Lanka seemed like a place about as different from my own home as possible, so why not? I spent two semesters on the ISLE program in 1998-99. I was studying religion and art at Bowdoin, both of which segued beautifully into the broad range of cultural studies available in Kandy. After the first semester program concluded, I spent the break traveling in Asia, and returned for a spring of independent research.
Traveling [within Sri Lanka] was by far my favorite part of the ISLE experience - the openness of the trains, the insane roads, the dramatic landscape and vegetative changes, etc. The independent travel with friends and the organized trips with the program were equally wonderful. I walked to school from Kandy most days (after an exploding bus incident), which was also a great way to learn more about the surroundings.
The foods I fell in love with:
I LOVED the coconut roti with parippu. The jackfruit curry was pretty great as well...and the egg hoppers. And kiri bath on poya days.
People who made a lasting impression on me:
My fellow students were all wonderful. Jessie Cmyalo was the only other student who stayed on through the Spring semester, however, so we spent a whole lot of time together - all of which was great. I had a very kind host family, as well. They were always there with coconut roti when the days were long. And finally, how could anyone not cherish time with Sumanasena and everyone at the ISLE center?
Most memorable moments:
I spent a portion of my independent study looking at the history and practice of jewelry design near Kandy. One of the villages I visited was a good distance from the city center and I ended up on the back of a motorcycle speeding through fields to avoid a VERY long walk. Looking back, it might not have been the safest decision, but I would have made it again in a heartbeat. Same goes for dangling my legs out of the train headed south through rice paddies, but the unregulated freedom was beyond memorable and is especially missed during brutal deadlines in the middle of the winter.
The ISLE effect beyond college:
Beyond generally understanding that the whole world does not function in the same way that we live our day-to-day lives here in the States, the program was a fantastic reminder of the virtues of adaptability and relativity. I remain curious about the world in a way that would not have been possible without the ISLE program. On a religion-specific note, it encouraged a strong sense of realism and perspective and helped me to cultivate a critical mind (essential for my current life!). In general, my worldview was vastly expanded in both breadth and depth.
"...the program was a fantastic reminder of the virtues of adaptability and relativity."