Karina Kainth, Alumna
School of Diplomacy and International Relations, Class of 2013
Greetings from Chennai, India! I sit writing this in a small shop that sells the best South Indian coffee in town (the secret is in the chicory root). As the bustle of city life surrounds me, I reflect on my time at Seton Hall and how it has prepared me for the experience of teaching in India through the Fulbright program.
Since the day I began my grant, I have found myself drawing upon lessons I learned during my time at Seton Hall. When conducting interviews for my research project on education policy, I have utilized my experience with the Envoy and my honors thesis project. My time abroad as a Critical Language Scholar in Jordan during my sophomore year at Seton Hall has better prepared me for cross-cultural communication here in Chennai. My internships with the State Department and my international relations classes have helped me to look at India’s policies more analytically as I discuss the news with locals.
But in many ways, nothing could have prepared me for much of my experience in Chennai. From the chaos of daily life, in which people often invent their own traffic laws, to working within a completely different education system, I’ve been reminded time and again about the importance of adaptability in the face of unanticipated circumstances. I have had many firsts here: my first time as basically a full-time English teacher, devising my own syllabus for the conversational English classes that I teach; my first time eating rice and lentils with my hands; and my first time conducting a mostly unsupervised research project abroad.
The novelty of these experiences lends itself to many challenges, but also to many triumphs. The cultural disconnect I often face when I am teaching a class full of 50 students who don’t completely understand my American accent, or are used to rote memorization rather than creative thinking in the classroom, can sometimes be frustrating. However, this challenge just propels me to be more innovative in my teaching, and the excited looks on students’ faces when they learn to create their own skits in English or use a new grammar concept are so much more rewarding.
My experiences at Seton Hall were stepping stones that enabled me to embark on this amazing experience, and my time here in India continues to remind me how much I have yet to learn. However, it also empowers me to believe that a little creativity and an open mind can make any strange or uncomfortable experience a transformative one.
The Alumni Spotlight section will highlight the acheivements of School of Diplomacy graduates. Each personal account will be a glimpse into the unique journeys of the School’s most accomplished alumni.