ISLE Program

Spring 2009 Pre-Orientation

The seven students participating in the Spring 2009 ISLE program come from Amherst, Bowdoin, Grinnell, and Macalester Colleges, and bring with them a broad range of academic and extracurricular interests, including Anthropology, Asian Studies, Environmental Studies, History, Mathematics, Music, Philosophy, Political Science, Religion and Theater. In addition to their studies, the students pursue their varied interests through extracurricular activities on their various home campuses, and through volunteering and internship work.

Whatever their diverse backgrounds and academic interests, the students share enthusiasm and a strong commitment to learn more about Sri Lanka, South Asia, and the world through cross-cultural study and living in Sri Lanka.

Keep checking these pages for further updates on the activities of the ISLE Spring 2009 students.


In addition to attending orientation meetings with ISLE staff and former ISLE students, the students are provided with information on a wide range of topics, including academic courses, information on travel-related issues such as immunizations and passports, practical advice on life in Kandy, packing, and much more. They are also provided with a Web-based forum for exchanging ideas and concerns, asking questions, and getting answers. Both students and parents receive periodic updates on important preparatory issues via an e-mail list serve, and the Administrative Director is always available to answer individual questions by phone or e-mail.

After being sent preliminary information and language learning materials, students carefully chose their courses, and started learning Sinhala, the majority language of Sri Lanka. Although learning Sinhala is challenging, it is well worth the effort to arrive in Sri Lanka with at least a few phrases. Students will need their Sinhala skills from the very beginning, in order to meet and converse with their host families and other local people and to get the most from their semester.

Students were provided with additional preparatory readings. These include English translations of selections from The Mahavamsa, an ancient Sri Lankan text. The students also received copies of the 20th century Sri Lankan novel, When Memory Dies. In addition to these, students were also asked to do independent research and reading on Sri Lankan and South Asian history and culture, to help prepare them for the coming semester. (To learn more about these readings, please scroll down to the bottom of this page.)

To help them prepare for living in Sri Lanka, students are required to read the ISLE HANDBOOK and to bring it with them for reference. The Handbook is invaluable, covering a wide variety of practical topics, including preparing for the long flight, health and safety tips, tips on how to have a successful homestay experience, academic expectations, and more. It includes helpful advice on the transition and adjustment to Sri Lankan culture, societal expectations and the varied nature of the academic experience in Sri Lanka.

Spring 2009 Student Profiles

Joe BablerJoe Babler is a junior at Bowdoin College majoring in Philosophy and History. He comes from Madison, Wisconsin and is the youngest of four siblings. Outside of class, Joe is active in Bowdoin's student theater group, and he plays oboe and English horn with Bowdoin's orchestra and chamber ensembles.

Joe's reasons for choosing to study in Sri Lanka include an academic interest in religious studies as well as South East Asian culture and history, and the opportunity to learn Sinhala. He is looking forward to expanding his horizons in Sri Lanka.

Carrie DuLaneyCarrie DuLaney is a Religion major at Amherst College from Arlington, VA. She has also studied pre-medicine, and has taken a lot of political philosophy and anthropology courses. Carrie has already studied in South Asia, having recently traveled to Varanasi/ Bodh Gaya, India and studied Tibetan Buddhism at the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies. She loved India, and is considering writing her senior thesis on Hindu nationalist movements during the British Raj.

Before coming to Amherst, Carrie worked as an environmental educator for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. She enjoys running the hills of Amherst and spicy food. She can't wait to get to Sri Lanka.

Emily HeckelEmily Heckel, from Lee, New Hampshire, is pursuing a double major Philosophy and Anthropology at Macalester College. She is particularly interested in environmental anthropology and religion, and plans to study them both in Sri Lanka. Outside of class, Emily plays violin, acts in student-directed theater productions, and rows for the Macalester crew team. She also works as an environmental educator with the Seacoast Science Center at home in New Hampshire. Emily first became interested in the ISLE Program after studying Buddhism, but she says she has always wanted to go to South Asia. She considers Sri Lanka to be the perfect place to pursue her interests abroad, and she is excited to learn Sinhala.

Andrew KishmanAndrew Kishman, from Vermillion, Ohio, is a third year Philosophy major at Grinnell College. His primary interest in ISLE is the opportunity to learn about Buddhism in Sri Lanka, though he's also excited to exchange an Iowa winter for Kandy's warm climate. At Grinnell, Andrew spends most of his time reading, meditating, running, and hanging out with friends. He also runs a student-run animal shelter group.

Andrew lived and worked in Switzerland last summer and was able to travel through much of Europe. He is looking forward to living with a Sri Lankan family and to traveling. In addition to cultural sites in Sri Lanka, he hopes to see Bodh Gaya, Dharamsala, Nepal, and possibly Bhutan. He also wants to learn to play cricket which in Sri Lanka, time permitting.

Becky LyonsBecky Lyons is a third year Anthropology major with an Environmental Studies concentration at Grinnell College. Becky hails from Schaumburg, Illinois, where she enjoys volunteering at a local nature center, doing conservation work and helping with children’s environmental education activities. At Grinnell she is actively involved in several environmental groups. Becky enjoys the outdoors and most sports including camping, hiking, biking and swimming. Last summer, she attended a geology field school through Colorado College, and she speaks some German.

Becky was drawn to study abroad in Sri Lanka because of its cultural, historical, and ecological diversity. She solidified her decision after taking a class on major Asian religions and speaking with a friend who recently attended the ISLE Program.

Andrew SudanoAndrew Sudano, from Long Island, New York, is a junior at Bowdoin College majoring in Anthropology and South Asian Studies. Outside of class, Andrew spends a lot of his free time working for the Bowdoin radio station here at Bowdoin, where he hosts a weekly heavy metal show. He also plays with his own band and enjoys going to concerts.

Andrew became interested in coming to Sri Lanka in his freshman year, when one of his professors, Sunil Goonasekera, highly recommended the program. He previously visited India with his family and says he's always wanted to see more of the region. He's really excited to go to Sri Lanka!

Damian von SchoenbordDamian von Schoenborn, from Columbia, Missouri, is a Mathematics and Political Science double major at Grinnell College. After graduating, he is considering attending law school and hopes to pursue a career in international conflict resolution, focusing particularly on ethnic conflicts. He is looking forward to further study in this field while in Sri Lanka. Outside of class, Damian enjoys soccer and all sorts of outdoor activities and is an avid coin collector. He also loves animals and has worked in several animal hospitals and shelters. Damian has traveled throughout North America and Europe, and once to China, but he doesn't think he's been anywhere quite like Sri Lanka; he is looking forward to his semester there.

Spring 2009 ISLE Faculty and Staff

Professor Larry Lutchmansingh Professor Larry Lutchmansingh is the Resident Faculty Director for the Spring 2009 ISLE Program. Professor Lutchmansingh taught History of Art and Architecture at Bowdoin College and the Graduate Institute of Art History of the National Taiwan University. In 2003-2004 he was a Fulbright Senior Scholar at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, where he taught courses in Social Theory in the Department of Sociology. In 2000, he directed the South India Term Abroad (SITA) program in Madurai, India, and in the fall of 2007, he directed the ISLE Program.

Dr. Sree Padma Holt ISLE Administrative Director, Dr. Sree Padma Holt works with ISLE faculty and administrators to plan for courses and set up the program calendar for the semester. Dr. Holt also facilitates the orientation and preparation for each group of students, making sure that students follow the steps necessary to address tasks such as acquiring immunizations and passports. She is always available for questions from parents and students. The Administrative Director also acquires the necessary resident Visas for students through the Sri Lankan embassy before the group's departure, makes group travel plans, and holds numerous meetings with ISLE students and staff as they prepare for the coming semester.

Katie Hyman Katie Hyman is the ISLE Program Assistant for Spring 2009. A student on the 2006 ISLE Program, Katie graduated cum laude in 2008 from Bowdoin College with double major in History and Asian Studies. After graduating in May, Katie led wilderness trips for the Chewonki Foundation over the summer and has since returned to her home state of Colorado, where she has been working for the County Elections Office. Katie is thrilled to be returning to Sri Lanka in January and feels that ISLE program was the highlight of her college career. She looks forward to helping to make ISLE a highlight for this semester's group. Katie is also the source of all the photos and updates about the Spring 2009 program activities that you will see on these Web pages throughout the semester.

More on Sri Lanka Reading Materials

Students were given an important novel to read before the trip, When Memory Dies. It is a story that follows the trajectory of three generations of a family through 20th century Sri Lanka, and offers many insights into the current political and social culture of the island.

Students are also asked to read some chapters in The Mahavamsa. The Mahavamsa is a Buddhist monastic chronicle dating from the 5th through 19th centuries. 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 Sri Lankan Mosaic course focused on the early history of Sri Lanka, as well as courses offered in Sinhala culture and rituals.

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.

We look forward to bringing you reports and photographs from the Spring 2009 group, including photos and updates about the students' arrival and orientation in Sri Lanka. Once again, we thank families for their support, and hope you enjoy these Web pages.