Story posted January 17, 2012
Patrick Lavender, Bates College (B.A. Economics ‘08)
I currently work at an economic consulting firm in New York. I spend most of my time exploring the city’s cultural offerings and drinking establishments, and preparing for graduate school this fall.
I knew that I wanted to study somewhere in South Asia, but hadn’t decided on a program. After doing some research, I felt that ISLE had the strongest academic program and a great home stay experience. I had also heard from alumni that Sri Lankan beaches are the most beautiful in the world, that didn’t hurt. I participated in ISLE during the fall semester of 2006. At that time, ISLE was just one semester per year. I went on to University College London for my spring semester, and the pairing was phenomenal considering the historical ties between Sri Lanka and the UK.
The foods I fell in love with:
My most memorable events on the program:
There are a few activities that stand out from my time in Sri Lanka. Independent Study was a great opportunity to explore Sri Lanka. The coursework and home stay experiences were fairly structured, so being able to explore the island independently, make outside contacts, and study what personally interested me was exciting and a welcome change of pace. Truthfully, the planning and travel were daunting at the time, but in retrospect independent study was incredibly rewarding. Kandyan Dance class has proven to be an awesome ice breaker at parties, I highly recommend it. Also, I traveled to India after the program with two good friends, and it was literally the best vacation of my life.
People who made lasting impression on me:
I deeply enjoyed engaging professors and ISLE staff, and getting to know my peers, many of whom I still consider close friends. But looking back, I think the most impactful relationships I formed were with my host family and their staff. I was truly treated as a member of the family. My best memory was watching the terrible Sri Lankan soap operas with my Amma and totally enjoying it.
One memorable moment was when a group of us made fajitas for our host families. We planned it together and spent at least a week gathering the necessary ingredients. Finally, the day of, we crammed into my host family’s kitchen and made our own tortillas, fajita greens, guacamole, salsa, etc. We proudly presented our food to our host families and received a mixed reception. Our families will probably never turn into Mexican-food fanatics like myself, but I think everyone enjoyed the experience.
I also remember traveling to the south coast with a cohort of ISLE students. We took the eight hour train (which is an experience in itself) to Unawatuna. We checked in at a nice hotel/restaurant for ~$10/day and got to relax at the most amazing beach I have ever been to. Great waves, great sand, clear blue water, the whole experience was amazing.
The ISLE effect beyond college:
ISLE has made me a more open and accepting person. It’s also made me a more informed citizen of the world. I can better navigate the complexities of world events in a way that is not possible from just reading the news. The trishaws of Kandy were also great preparation for haggling with cabs in New York. This may sound like an exaggeration, but ISLE changed my worldview in almost every way. The people and experiences altered my understanding of what values make up a good person and what makes a life successful.
"This may sound like an exaggeration, but ISLE changed my worldview in almost every way."