In May of 2018, I was lucky enough to be awarded an ACU grant to attend an international summer school. Motivated by my study of development economics, particularly the work of Abhijit Banerjee, I chose the summer programme at Lovely Professional University (LPU) in Phagwara, India. I wanted to gain a deeper understanding of Indian history and experience first-hand the rich and varied culture of the country.
While at LPU, I conducted a research project for the Mittal School of Business, comparing the pedagogical techniques used in teaching economics to undergraduates in India to the methods used in UK universities. I spent time interviewing a range of departmental staff and students, as well as observing teaching in practice. Although I found many similarities between the two countries, there is a distinct technology gap which has resulted in low levels of student engagement and underachievement in assessments in India. I was able to introduce the department to a number of free online resources and suggest pedagogies based on research by the University College London Centre for Teaching and Learning Economics (UCL CTaLE).
Of course, the summer school wasn't all work and no play – during my time at LPU I immersed myself in the local culture; from early morning yoga and meditation classes to energetic traditional Punjabi dance classes. The Indian cooking lessons were a particular highlight – I can now make an authentic Kadhi Pakora and Lachha Paratha from scratch! I also studied fascinating Ayurvedic medicine theories and produced my own natural remedies for sore throats and upset stomachs.
The evenings were packed with activities for all students attending the range of summer programmes at LPU. We went to local markets, watched locals perform Bhangra, visited the Golden Temple in nearby Amritsar and went on a scenic bike ride. I was able to put my newfound Hindi language skills to the test during a three-day trip to Agra and Delhi. After surviving the 13-hour overnight train journey, I visited the iconic Taj Mahal, explored the ruins of Qutub Minar, and wandered the bustling streets of Chandni Chowk.
What have you learnt from the experience?
Now I'm back in the UK, I plan to share the knowledge and skills gained at LPU with my department at UCL and the CTaLE. I also regularly work with the secondary school I attended, mentoring students from socioeconomically deprived areas. I plan to deliver an interactive workshop to pupils, educating them on Indian culture and history, and hopefully inspiring them to continue on to further education by illustrating the opportunities it can bring. I will replicate some of the activities I took part in at LPU, such as teaching basic Hindi, and showcasing Indian costumes, art, dancing and food.
The few weeks I spent in India this summer are some of the most memorable of my life, and not just because I ate curry three times a day for two weeks. International summer schools provide students with the opportunity to build friendships with students from across the world, strengthen their independence, and improve their self-confidence. I am incredibly grateful to the ACU and my hosts Supriya Matthew and Manu Aggarwal in the LPU Department of International Affairs, and I'm already looking forward to my next visit to the land of diversity.