ISLE Program

Fall 2008 Session III Activities

The third and final session of the program is the students’ Independent Study. After much research and careful planning with their professors and the program director, ISLE students spend nearly a month conducting research and working on their own personal projects. In most cases the students study away from the ISLE Center and their homestay families. Students take what they have learned in the classroom and on field trips together with their unique experiences with their families and immerse themselves in Sri Lankan culture.

The three major events depicted on this page are ISLE Thanksgiving, Independent Study Seminar Day, and Final Tea.

chasing a calf

While the students are away on Independent Study, things get quiet around the ISLE Center.  So quiet, in fact, that a calf slipped in and started grazing on the lawn.  Here, ISLE Center gardener Gabriel Anthony chases the calf back outside.


Chris on Independent Study

Chris Burke talks to an 8th Grade English Teacher at Highlands School in Hatton for his independent study on English as a second language education in Sri Lanka.


It is an ISLE tradition that the students come to the ISLE center for a pot-luck Thanksgiving dinner.  Generally, ISLE provides the turkey and the rest of the food is provided by the students.

Craig cuts the turkey

Program Director Nancy Wilkie's husband, Craig, carves the turkey for the annual ISLE Center Thanksgiving Dinner.

Maria and Sheila at ISLE Thanksgiving

Maria and Sheila enjoy their Thanksgiving dinner at the ISLE center.

Thanksgiving group

The students sit around the table and enjoy the staples of an American Thanksgiving dinner.  The only thing that was missing was cranberry sauce, the one thing impossible to find in Sri Lanka.


On seminar day, each student presents his or her Independent Study research followed by group discussion.  Every student is required to read every other paper, so each presentation/discussion lasted at least 45 minutes.

Sarah presents

 Sarah explains the role of mother goddess worship in Hindu and Buddhist religious culture in Sri Lanka.

Kristin presents

Kristin recounts an experience from the Kurunegala Ayurveda Hospital where she conducted her Independent Study field research.

Jared presents

Jared explains the role of possession in folk ritual during his Independent Study presentation.

Michelle presents

Michelle recites a poem written by Sri Lankan poet Jean Arasanayagam, whom she interviewed for her Independent Study on her life and works.

Maria presents

Maria explains her encounters with devotees of Sai Baba during her Independent Study.

Sheila presents

Sheila explains the benefits of micro finance for alleviating poverty in Sri Lanka.  She did her field research with Agro Micro Finance in Kurunegala.


The Final Tea is the last official ISLE activity, where students come to tea with their families to celebrate the completion of a successful semester!

Michelle, Maria and host families

Maria and Michelle pose with their homestay families at the Final Tea.  Traditionally, the Final Tea is an opportunity for the students to try out traditional Sri Lankan dress.  Here, Maria and Michelle are dressed in Kandyan-style saris borrowed from their homestay mothers.

Playing with Nangi

Sheila (left) and Kristin (right) watch as Sarah (center) plays with her Nangi (homestay sister) at the Final Tea.

Chris with host parents

Chris and his homestay parents turn to the camera at the Final Tea.

Jared, Sheila and homestay families

Jared, Sheila, Jared's homestay mother, Jared's homestay father, and Sheila's homestay mother (left to right) pose for a photo at the Final Tea.

Kristin with host familly

Kristin chats with her homestay family at the Final Tea.

Sumanasena and Chris

ISLE Center driver, Sumanasena, chats with Chris at the Final Tea.

ISLE students with Rosemary

Rosemary, the ISLE Center manager, poses for a photo with the students at the Final Tea.

Final Tea Group Photo

The students pose for their last group photo with their homestay families at the Final Tea.

After a memorable and fulfilling ISLE semester, the students are now packing up and heading for home, but they will remember their experiences in Sri Lanka and the friends they've made there for a long time to come.