wedding-sari
Wedding Attire. By Molly Work '12. View this photo and more on the ISLE Student Tumblr


Alumni Profiles

Flynn Jebb (ISLE '04, Holy Cross '06)


Flynn was a 2012-14 Rotary Peace Fellow with a Masters in Public Policy and Social Research with a concentration in Peace and Conflict Studies from International Christian University in Tokyo.

Why did you choose ISLE?
My grandfather was stationed in Sri Lanka with the Royal Air Force during WWII. He spoke fondly of its beauty. This, coupled with the opportunities for a political science major to study implications for individuals and families affected by large sale conflict, made ISLE an extremely rich academic and cultural experience to pursue.

What made your ISLE semester memorable?
The most memorable parts of my ISLE experience center around the relationships I forged with my host family and Sri Lankan friends, the ISLE center faculty and staff, and my fellow ISLE classmates. I have carried many of these relationships with me for over ten years now, through many milestones: university studies and graduate school degrees, marriages and births, and transcontinental moves- through all of the important chapters that outline our lives.

How did your experience in Sri Lanka affect your path post-ISLE?
My ISLE experience has deeply influence my professional goals and career path. Everything about living in Sri Lanka changed by worldview. Things became important that I had never before given serious thought. Things I had taken for granted became more lucid and complex all at the same time. The scope of my curiosity exponentially grew. I have been able to return to Sri Lanka three times since my first ISLE semester: twice working with the program and most recently completing research for my Masters. My M.A thesis, completed in 2014, was inspired in part by a ISLE panel talk that was organized for our cohort in 2004. This direct correlation and long term relationships with Sri Lanka has shaped my life and work in wild, unexpected and welcome ways. 

Daniel Tobin (ISLE '02, Bowdoin '04)

Daniel is a Ph.D candidate at Penn State University. His research centers on market-oriented development for small-holding farmers in Peru, and its affects on food security and biodiversity.

Why did you choose ISLE?
When I selected the ISLE Program, I was looking for an experience that would immerse me in a place much different from what I was accustomed to. I wanted to be challenged intellectually and culturally, and I also intended to build on what I had been learning as a Religion major. The intensive coursework, host family experience, and allure of South Asia compelled me to sign up.

What made your ISLE semester memorable?
I lived on the other side of Kandy from the ISLE Center. I would go to the fruit market, grab a cup of tea and then walk around the lake to my home stay. In doing so, I became acquainted with many locals. My walk home in the late afternoon always took over an hour as I stopped to talk to all the people I came to know and befriend. It was in those conversations that I felt that I was gaining an extra component of education about local life and culture.

How did your experience in Sri Lanka affect your path post-ISLE?
My ISLE experience inspired a curiosity about the world and the way it is. While living in and traveling around Sri Lanka, I observed the conditions that many people must navigate to meet their basic needs. I wanted to better understand what structures existed that helped shape these circumstances and how people responded in their own lives. Those kinds of questions have compelled my professional pursuit as a development sociologist who focuses on global issues such as food security, biodiversity, and market opportunities for smallholding farmers.

Katie Dearing (ISLE '06, Holy Cross '08)

Katie is the Director of Sponsor and Mentor Recruitment at Student Sponsor Partners, an NYC organization that selects students from low-income families and transfers them from high schools with low graduation rates to schools with high ones, pairing them also with financial sponsors and mentors. 

Why did you choose ISLE?
As a Religious Studies major, I looked for an abroad experience that would expose me to a dynamic interection of religion and culture. Beyond that, I wanted to experience a geographic and community experience different from my own. During my ISLE year, I was also a Fellow with the Fund for Theological Education, so I wanted to engage in abroad studies that also enhanced my Fellowship experience. 

What made your ISLE semester memorable?
While an ISLE student, my host "nephew" was 5-years-old, and I spent many late afternoons teaching him how to ride a bike. During the teaching process, I had to make sure he didn't ride down the path and into the streams surrounding the driveway. Another great memory was joining the University of Peradeniya swim team. It was a great way to meet friends and integrate into University life.

How did you experience in Sri Lanka affect your path post-ISLE
ISLE exposed me to so many different ways of life, experiences, and art forms. After ISLE, my inquisitive and adventurous nature deepened, and I found a place in my career by asking big questions about education and the way education organizations best ensure student success. I frequently offer stories about my Sri Lanka experiences to inner city high school students I come across who are engaging in the college search. I'm grateful that I was able to take advantage of ISLE, and I take every opportunity to "pay it forward" and encourage others to take risks and experience studies abroad through a similar program.

Noel McCann (ISLE '13, Amherst '14)

After graduating from Amherst, Noel enrolled in an intensive Sinhala language program at the South Asian Summer Language Institute (SASLI). He is now pursuing a Masters degree in International Relations and Diplomacy at the School for Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at University of London.

Why did you choose ISLE?
In Amherst, I was a religion major who focused on Theravada Buddhism. As a result, I wanted to learn more about how religions such as Buddhism play a religious and social role in countries within South Asia. More importantly, however, I chose ISLE because I wanted something out of the ordinary. Many people go to Western Europe and the Far East, both which have societies that are easily comfortable and similar to that of the United States. I wanted to have an opportunity to learn in a country whose lifestyle and culture couldn't be more different than the Western world. 

What made your ISLE experience memorable?
Among many memorable moments in my time in Sri Lanka, the experience of conducting my independent study project perhaps brought the most impact on my academic and social life. Being given a certain period of time to work on a personally chosen topic helped me organize interviews and plan out a schedule for writing my research paper. I also enjoyed communicating with locals in the city of Hatton and learning even more about their lives and challenges in Sri Lanka. 

How did your experience in Sri Lanka affect your path post-ISLE?
My ISLE experience absolutely changed my life academically and professionally. Last year, I wrote a theisis on the rise of Buddhist extremist groups such as the Bodu Bala Sena and got accepted to the SOAS' International Relations program. I am looking to further pursue a career that focuses on South Asia, expecially Sri Lanka.

Katharine Nixon (ISLE '12, Bates '14)

Why did you choose ISLE?
Initially I was drawn to ISLE because it seemed so much more intimate than other programs I was considering. ISLE isn't a part of any larger study abroad corporation, meaning that everyone who works for this small program is entirely devoted to fostering positive experiences for students to learn and grow in specifically Sri Lanka. There is something special about this small island country, and that is what keeps the vigor of the ISLE program alive. Professors, students, staff, and alumni are so committed to ISLE and that is really unique in a study abroad program. 

What made your ISLE experience memorable?
There were so many things that made Sri Lanka memorable, but I often find myself most nostalgic thinking back to memories with my host family. Beyond welcoming me into their home, they taught me so much about what it means to truly connect with new people and places. They were always so kind and enthusiastic about me making the most of my semester abroad, and I am so grateful for that.

How did your experience in Sri Lanka affect your path post-ISLE?
After studying abroad in Sri Lanka the breadth of what I think I can accomplish has definitely expanded. I also approach difficult situations with much more confidence, and I owe a lot of this to the ISLE program. It's interesting because this kind of change wasn't apparent immediately, but two years later I've definitely noticed it. I suppose it's because ISLE challeges you in the best ways poossible, not shying away from the difficulties that come from an authentic cultural immersion program and giving you the tools to make the experience your own. 

Ben Breger (ISLE '13, Bates '14)

Why did you choose ISLE?
I was looking for an opportunity to combine my interests in Buddhism and environmetnal conservation and I knew that would be possible through my independent study. Additionally, I chose ISLE based off recommendations from faculty, who described it as the premier program in South Asia as it combines a solid academic experience with deep cultural immersion. The elephants, monkeys, and beautiful beaches were certainly a factor as well.

What made your ISLE experience memorable?
So many diferent memories. Three-wheeled taxis swerving through crowded streets. The rich taste and smell of curry, pol sambol, and my host-mother's cooking. Living and working on an organic farm for my independent study where I milked cows with my barehands, picked papaya, harvested rice, and patrolled for trampling elephants. Learning to play cricket with my host family. Travelling the country with my classmates on the weekends in rickety trains and crowded buses where you can't sit down for housrs. What really made ISLE memorable were the Sri Lankan people, my fellow program participants, and the incredble natural beauty of the country.

How did your experience in Sri Lanka affect your path post-ISLE?
Sri Lanka is a microcosm of the types of environmental, social, cultural, and religious conflicts which most every developing country is facing. Name an issue and Sri Lanka is probably dealing with it. It is therefore an incredible place to become immersed in and learn about the complex issues facing developing countries. I left the country with an understanding of the global and complex nature of environmental and economic issues and I try to infuse that knowledge into decisions I make regarding my career and consumption.