Story posted June 01, 2012
When the ISLE Program asked me to write this article about my experiences in Sri Lanka, I absolutely jumped at the opportunity to share my experience and hopefully encourage others to participate in the ISLE Program. I promised myself I wouldn’t get too cheesy, but when I look back on my experience with the ISLE Program, it really helped to shape who I am today, and where my life has landed me up to this point. ISLE helped to widen my worldview and took me out of my comfort zone to learn more about the world, and learn more about myself.
I have so many fond memories from Sri Lanka and it’s hard to pinpoint just a few specific instances that stand out the most. I desperately miss the energy and vibrancy of the people in Sri Lanka and all the smells of delicious food, spices, fresh fruit, and delicacies that blend together beautifully. Some of my favorite memories, though, are from my time with my host family. I was fortunate enough to live with a Muslim family and was able to learn so much from them. My Amma (host mother) and Tata (host father) took me in like family and some of my happiest memories are from meals shared with them with the Indian soap operas (dubbed in Sinhala) on in the background. There would be days I would rush home after classes just to make sure I was home in time to have tea and a chat with my Amma.
Another great experience was travelling to the beaches in the south of the island. Trips to the south of Sri Lanka were always fun with an early morning train from Kandy and a rather long train trip with exceptional views of the mountains and the coast. One particular trip to Mirissa a group of us stayed in funny little huts on the beach. I remember sitting on the deck at night hearing the waves crash while we could smell dinner being made in the background. Eating delicious homemade curry outside with the waves crashing and the unique smell of the Indian Ocean was pretty memorable.
One of the most special and unique experiences during my time in Sri Lanka, however, was our group trip to Sri Pada. Sri Pada is an ancient mountain in Sri Lanka that is claimed to have Buddha’s footprint at the top. It is an ancient pilgrimage and epic climb to the top of the mountain that starts in the early evening and ends at sunrise at the top of the mountain. We sat at the top of the mountain after our climb and watched the sunrise over the mountains below. It was a difficult climb, but an unbelievable experience seeing the sunrise so peacefully from the top of the mountain.
The independent project portion of the program was a great experience for me as well. It is an excellent opportunity to delve deeper into a subject that really interests you and in a particular part of Sri Lanka that you would like to explore a bit more. I was fortunate enough to pursue my interest in public health during my independent project, and that research and experience certainly helped to direct my future career and ambitions in the future. After three years in Washington, DC doing global health policy work I am now pursuing an international public health masters degree in London. My experience in Sri Lanka helped shape the person I am today, continuously challenged me, and helped me find direction for the next stage in my life.
I promised myself I wouldn’t get too cheesy, but when I look back on my experience with the ISLE Program, it really helped to shape who I am today, and where my life has landed me up to this point.