ISLE Program

Fall 2013 Session I Activities

After staying two nights at the Hotel Sandakelum in Dangolla, the students relocated to their new homes! Host families and ISLE students came together for the first time at the ISLE Center for a tea party. At the end of the night, each student left with his or her amma (mother) and appachi (father). 

Robin and the Kaluarachchi family


Andrew and the Ekanayake family


Maja and the Rajaguru family


Derek and the Silva family


Sam and the Wansekara family


Hannah and the Rajaguru family


 Eli and the de Silva family


The ISLE students explored the University of Peradeniya on a tour of campus. In addition to the gym, academic classrooms, and canteen, the students visited the library. As Peradeniya students, they will be able to use this library for class research and preparation for the Independent Field Study Project.

Faculty Resident Director, Professor Mat Schmalz (far left), leads the group into the library.


Sam, Robin, Maja and Hannah browse the stacks.


Andrew spots a good book.


The Learning Partners (LPs), who are Sri Lankan students at the university, joined the ISLE students on the tour. They led the ISLE group around some of the most scenic parts of campus.



The tour ended in the canteen, where students and LP's enjoyed snacks and conversations in one of the major hang out spots on campus. 


Maja enjoys a hopper, which is a traditional Sri Lankan food and resembles a pancake. 


In order to immerse themselves in local culture, students take daily Conversational Sinhala classes led by Professor Amare Liyanage and Mr. Buddhika Konara. Here Sam practices writing in Sinhala script.


Robin writes phonetical Sinhala on the board.


In the first lecture of the Sri Lankan Studies seminar, Tissa Jayatilaka and Radhika Coomaraswamy led a stimulating lecture and discussion on the history of Sri Lanka's economic and political structure, from the colonial era to President Rajapaksa's current administration. This lecture was held at the ISLE Center, and is the first in a series meant to prepare students for their Independent Field Study Projects. 


The students ventured into Kandy for an orientation to the city. They boarded a city bus from Dangolla, and traveled around to the general market, post office, and Kandy City Center. 


The Kandy City Center, which is similar to an American shopping mall, is where the students exchanged their dollars for Sri Lankan rupees.


Week II of the program was filled with Sri Lankan Studies Seminar field lectures and trips. 

Archaeology professors Dr. Aruna Rajapakse and Dr. D.K Jayaratne led the group to a craft village where the local people specialize in making traditional Sri Lankan drums. 

drumming village 1

Students got a chance to witness the laborious drum-making process including carving the body of the drums out of tree trunks and drying the cow hide for the ends of the drums. Archaeology students from University of Peradeniya (in maroon shirts) joined the trip and acted as translators between the local craftspeople and the students.

drumming village 2

Later in the week, Professor Milton Rajaratne presented a lecture on Kandy City. The lecture exposed students to the city's past and changes that have occured over time. After the lecture, students took a tour of Kandy, led by Professor Rajaratne (right). 

bridge 1

Here the students stand on a bridge connecting Kandy to Katugastota.

kandy tour

At the end of the week, Professors Tudor Silva, Dr. Fazeeha Azmi and Dr. Ariyasena Gamage took the ISLE group on a trip to two nearby villages: Uthuwankanda, a Sinhala village and Mawanella, a Muslim village.  Students learned about the multicultural heritage of the area and spoke to locals about the Sinhala-Muslim ethnic relations.

Below, the students sit for a lecture in a Catholic Church in Uthuwankanda, the Sinhala village.

mawanella church

They also spoke to the chief monk at the local temple. 

mawanella temple

They then took a lunch break in shade, where they relaxed and ate their rice and curry packets.

mawanella lunch

In the Muslim village of Mawanella, the students met with the principal of the local school.

mawanella school

The trip exposed students to many aspects of the multicultural village life. Peradeniya students helped the ISLE students communicate with locals to discuss gender roles, religion, tourism, and medicine. The ISLE students, university students, and trip leaders posed for a group photo after the trip. 

mawanella group

In Week Three, the students headed to the Northern part of Sri Lanka to experience Jaffna, the Cultural Triangle, and Batticaloa. 

In Jaffna, the students toured Jaffna University campus.


Led by Professor Balasundarapillai, they had a chance to converse with professors and administrators at Jaffna University. Below, Eli asks a question of the Vice Chancellor of Jaffna University.


The students, Malik, and Professor Schmalz posed for a group photo with Professor Balasundarapillai (center).


After the tour, the students waded in the water at a beach in Jaffna.


In the evening, the students enjoyed authentic Tamil food at a local restaurant.


The next stop on the tour was the Cultural Triangle. This region includes Anuradhapura, Mihintale, and Polonnaruwa.

Professor Rajapakse and Professor Jayaratne, of University of Peradeniya, led the group in Anuradhapura. They visited ancient monastic complexes, royal gardens, and temples.


Below, Professor Rajapakse explains the importance of the guard stones that flank ancient Buddhist ruins.


In the evening, the students visited the Great Stupa in Anuradhapura, where they ended their day with a seminar discussion and meditation.

great stupa

During their visit to Polonnaruwa, the students had the unique opportunity to take a canoe ride with local fishermen. 


Derek, Sam, and Robin enjoy the ride. 


The next stop on the tour was Batticaloa, where the students visited a famous Hindu temple.


After they explored the temple grounds, the group enjoyed some fresh water buffalo milk!


To conclude their visit to Batticaloa, the students climbed to the top of a large rock to enjoy the beautiful view!

Robin and Eli look out over Batticaloa.


Derek, Sam, Andrew, and Hannah relax and enjoy the view.


In the final week of Session I, the students visited the home of longstanding ISLE Program and University of Peradeniya professor, Dr. Ashley Halpe. Halpe is an artist and fiction writer and along with his wife, composer Bridget Halpe, he collects art from around the country. The students spent the morning at the Halpe household learning about Sri Lankan art, poetry, and music. They also had the unique opportunity to meet renowned Sri Lankan poets including Jean Arasanayagam and Carl Muller.  


Bridget Halpe (front) explains a piece of artwork on her wall.  She later introduced the students to her own musical compositions, which fuse Western and South Asian music styles.


Derek examines a corner of the Halpe's collection. Their artwork illuminates Sri Lanka's history, struggles, and triumphs.


In the second Sri Lankan Studies seminar lecture of the week, the students had the opportunity to tour the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens. They enjoyed a lecture and special tour led by the director of Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, Dr. Siril Wijesundara. He began the afternoon with a powerpoint on the history of the gardens and the current development and restoration projects. 


Dr. Wijesundara then led the students around the gardens as he explained the various species, recounted stories of the gardens, and answered questions.


In an effort to cultivate a stronger relationship between ISLE students and University of Peradeniya students, the program organized a dormstay for the students. All the ISLE students had the opportunity to spend the night in the dorms with the Sri Lankan students to experience university life. Prior to the dormstay, the ISLE students met with their Sri Lankan counterparts at the ISLE center.


Once they met up on campus, the Peradeniya students took the ISLE students for dinner and showed them around the dorms. They played ping-pong, met new friends, and even organized a musical performance! Pictured below, the Robin, Derek, Eli and Andrew (L to R) prepare for the performance.


The ISLE students played American songs while the Peradeniya students played some of their Sinhalese favorites.


The dormstay was a great way to end Session I! Check out Session II for photos of field trips, events, and classes!