BY MADHURI BANDLA*
It is often said that knowing your roots helps to know yourself better. Josh Mysoré, a senior at the St. Mark’s School of Texas, decided to take it a step further by learning Hindi- the national language of his parent’s country of origin. He was the recipient of a merit-based scholarship from the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) program sponsored by the US State Department.
Launched in 2006 to promote critical language learning among American youth, the U.S. State Department, in cooperation with American Councils for International Education, awards and administers merit-based scholarships to high school students for participation in language immersion programs. One of the many goals of NSLI-Y is to spark a lifetime interest in foreign languages and cultures among American youth, to advance international dialogue, and develop linguistic skills to compete in a global economy.
Mysoré was delighted to be selected for the internship that included airfare and accommodation with a host family in New Delhi during the summer of 2020. However, this was ultimately moved to a virtual platform, following the Covid-19 lockdown. Though Mysoré was disappointed with not being able to attend in person, he made the best use of the virtual internship.
Mysoré is proud to be an American citizen with parents of Indian origin. Although his parent’s native languages are Tamil and Kannada, he was excited to be learning Hindi. He was matched with peer tutors from India and attended online classes 5 days a week for 5 weeks learning conversational Hindi including grammar rules and phonetic pronunciations. He participated in speech practice sessions, attended webinars, completed tests, assignments, and presentations to hone his Hindi speaking skills. In addition, he had cultural immersion opportunities and virtual encounters with families from different regions including Punjabis, Gujaratis, Bengalis and Tamilians. Mysoré appreciates how the program was an eye-opener to India’s diversity and gave him a flavor for different regional cultures. ” Learning a new language has added to my toolbox of skillsets helping me better understand Indian culture”, says Mysoré who now has a Global Competency Certificate of completion.
The application process for the NSLI-Y program was rigorous and challenging but Mysoré believes it was well worth the effort, giving him a new global perspective of his parent’s home country. He recommends that students pursue non-traditional foreign language internships to expand their learning experiences. In addition to the Hindi virtual internship, he has also completed his junior year in Spain with School Year Abroad. In addition to learning foreign languages, Mysoré has been selected to participate at Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference 2020 sponsored by the Freedom Forum and JCamp 2019 sponsored by The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), two highly selective programs for talented high school students. Congratulations to this dynamic young student who is considering pursuing his higher education in business and journalism.
Learning a language helps to create meaningful connections to a country and region- more so if it is the native country of your parents and ancestors. It could help children of immigrants in better shaping their unique identity, understanding their parents better, and maybe even unlocking a piece of themselves. Many NSLI-Y alumni have become global leaders in a variety of fields in the private, academic, and government sectors and credit the program for giving them a unique experience in improving their language proficiency, cultural understanding, and cross-cultural communication skills that are required to compete in a global economy.
For more information about the NSLI-Y program, including application and eligibility criteria, please visit www.nsliforyouth.org.
* Madhuri Bandla is a CPA, accounting educator, freelance writer, columnist, dreamer, lover of life and learning. While her roots are from India, which nourish her and keep her grounded, she considers herself a global citizen in the wilderness of the earth, drawing from different cultures and diverse experiences. Her longest love affair is one with words and she enjoys writing about Hindu mythology, socio-economic and women’s issues, nature-inspired poems, and travel memoirs.