ISLE Program

2007 Pre-Orientation

ISLE is far from a typical study abroad program, and every year students learn so much more from their experiences than they ever expected. This year's group is sure to be no exception. The twelve students who are on the fall 2007 program were very cooperative in getting required information to the ISLE administration on time and participating in the program’s pre-orientation.


During the first weeks of March 2007 the admission process was nearly complete and by the end of the month all twelve students were on board.  Although this is a smaller group compared to recent batches of students, their varied interests and backgrounds ensure a dynamic program. Below are our student profiles:


Katie Berringer is currently a sophomore Religion major at Carleton College. She grew up in New York and went to a math & science high school. She is really excited to study Buddhism, not just as a topic in itself but as it relates to the culture and history of the country as a whole.


Will Cole plans on pursuing a degree in speech-language pathology after graduation and is interested in the current political situation in Sri Lanka.


Haven Leeming, an English major from a small town in southern Maine, feels that it is imperative to diversify one's knowledge of the many cultures of the world, which is what brings her to Sri Lanka.


Sarah Hashmall, a sophomore religion major at Carleton College, considered majoring in French before taking a course in religion, but now plans on getting a certificate of advanced study in French and focusing her studies on religion.


Double majoring in computer science and linguistics, Anna Sallstrom says because of the discipline's systematic approach to solving problems computer science is her primary academic focus, while learning languages is her passion.


Originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Jackie Perlow is extremely interested in religions of South Asia and is excited to see the interplay of multiple religions in Sri Lanka. She also enjoys studying history and anthropology, and can't wait to learn more about the culture and history of Sri Lanka.


Ruth Manski, currently a sophomore at Grinnell College, majors in Sociology with an intended gender and women's studies concentration.  She is interested in issues related to community health, in particular, those that pertain to women’s health.


From Eugene, Oregon, Paige Greenley is an anthropology major and intends to declare a concentration in environmental studies. Her main interests lie in the intersection of culture and the natural environment. She says she is thrilled to have the opportunity to pursue these interests in the unique atmosphere of Sri Lanka where the culture, environment, and politics are so far from what she has previously experienced.


Will Olson is a second-year student at Grinnell and is a Biological Chemistry major who plans to attend medical school after graduation. He is considering specializing in psychiatry or neurology out of an interest in neurobiology, but also has a strong interest in religious studies.


Kathryn Sheriff, a junior religion major at Carleton College is from a small town in Texas and enjoys both creating art and learning about art history. She says she is very interested in the cultural impacts of religion in various societies, and is excited to learn about the religious experience of Sri Lankan families.


A junior philosophy major and interested in psychology as well, Nicholas Olendzki very much enjoyed the few Buddhism and art classes he’s taken.  Nich says he is really looking forward to the ISLE program, particularly for the opportunity to see the world from a different cultural perspective.


An anthropology and Spanish double major with an interest in cultural anthropology as well as archeology, Fiona Taggart enjoys reading ethnographies and articles as well as magical realism novels for Spanish class. Fiona says she is looking forward to doing hands-on research and likes the possibilities that Sri Lanka has to offer including investigating something cultural or archeological. 

PadmaPreparations commenced several months before the students were officially admitted in March.  In January the ISLE Administrative Director, Dr. Sree Padma Holt, arrived in Sri Lanka to meet with the faculty and the administration at the University of Peradeniya to plan for courses, to set up class schedules and to create the session calendar for the 2007 ISLE Program.

In February, Professor Larry Lutchmansingh received his first orientation when he participated in the annual ISLE faculty seminarlarry conducted by Sree Padma. Again, in late July and early August he, along with Sree Padma, met with all of the fall session faculty individually to finalize their syllabi and class and field trip schedules. They both met the University administration to reserve classrooms and to arrange for ISLE student use of internet and gym facilities.  

flynn Flynn Jebb (Holy Cross, ISLE student in 2004), who did a wonderful job as one of the program assistants in 2006, was invited to assist the students once again for this year’s program.

This year’s student group, like their predecessors in the past, were taken through a number of steps leading up to their late August departure. The pre-orientation of students started with Sree Padma sending a packet of information to students and their parents in the month of April. Sree Padma followed this by sending several list serve messages about various preparations to students with copies of relevant messages to their parents .  The list serve was also useful as a forum for discussion. The Blackboard tool has also proved effective in the last two years, so students were given passwords and were instructed how to use this innovative communication device.  The tool was extensively used by students to share information with the ISLE administration, as well as to get to know each other, ask questions, discuss various issues such as post program travel plans or relevant readings. This year, two of the forums on the Blackboard discussion platform were dedicated to pre-orientation readings.  These readings were mailed to students in early May. The reading materials are meant to help students to become familiar with Sri Lanka’s many aspects – its history, culture, geography and people.  Reading these items assists them in thinking about Sri Lanka early on, and to give them something on which to base their discussions on Blackboard and during the first days of the program in Sri Lanka.

Students were provided with a variety of readings before departure. Perhaps the most important is the ISLE HANDBOOK which, cover topics such as preparing for the long flight, health and safety tips, or how to have a successful "homestay" experience, and more.  Students were urged to read this before departure, and to bring it along for reference. The handbook is quite informative about making the transition and adjustment to Sri Lankan culture, societal expectations and the varied nature of academic experience in Sri Lanka. The handbook also contains useful addresses and telephone numbers . The students are asked to bring the handbook to Sri Lanka and treat it as a reference book for many occasions. 

hbThe Insight Guide to Sri Lanka, which was also distributed to students before departure, gives some idea of what to expect from life in Sri Lanka and provides useful tips on Sri Lankan culture and customs, including proper etiquette and conduct. In addition, it gives a good overview of ancient and modern Sri Lankan history—something students need to know to make sense of their experience in Sri Lanka. 

In addition, students were also given A Lankan Mosaic (translations of Sinhala and Tamil short stories) This is an English translation of a collection of short stories written in Sinhala by young writers. These stories not only give insights specific to Sinhala and Tamil sub-cultures of contemporary Sri Lanka but also comment on the social, political, economic, and ethnic tensions among different groups and classes.

Students are also asked to read some chapters in The Mahavamsa. The Mahavamsa is a Buddhist monastic chronicle dating from the 5th through 19th c.. The text provides insight not only into the early history of the country, but also how the past has been understood by many Sinhala people in the present.  The selections of readings from The Mahavamsa directly relate to our Ancient Material Culture course focused on the early history of Sri Lanka as well as courses offered in Sinhala culture and rituals. Professor Sudharshan Seneviratne the instructor of Ancient Material Culture course, sent his own introduction to The Mahavamsa readings to be distributed among students.

Dr. Lutchmansingh asked students to maintain journals while reading The Insight Guide as well as Sri Lanka Mosaic. They have also been asked to record their experiences after their arrival in Sri Lanka while comparing them what they have imagined of Sri Lanka before their arrival.  These journals will be collected by the director towards the end of the program and will be read along with their independent study essays.