Hi – I’m Jen! I’m the International Programs Manager at the IKC. What brought me to India, you ask? Well, let’s start back a ways. In university, I studied international relations and Spanish at a small, private, liberal arts college in Minnesota. I had big plans of becoming an ambassador to a European country! But halfway through my first year, I encountered a crisis. I loved what I was learning, which was politics, history, culture, anthropology, language, and the occasional snowboarding or ballet extracurricular. But I had realized that I did not want to work with policy, which was where my career goal of diplomacy was headed. I wanted to work with people! My advisors encouraged me to continue in this track and assured me that I would find a niche eventually…and I did! The next year I studied in Spain and fell in love with the academic experience abroad – I realized that all I wanted was to work with students to encourage them to learn from global experiences! I worked in my university study abroad office for the rest of my undergraduate career and came to firmly believe that when you let the world change you, you are better equipped to change your world.
After I graduated, I pursued my master’s degree in International Education. THIS is what brought me to India! I did a 6 month internship at an NGO in Bangalore working with American students studying in India and also with several local education intitiatives. I became intrigued with the Indian education system, with issues of access and opportunity, and with the global trends in education in India. I spent time with students learning about their dreams, and when it came time for me to leave, I just didn’t want to leave! But I had to, so I returned to Minnesota.
I met Girish through a mutual friend the weekend I graduated from my master’s program, and as he told me about the plans for the IKC I became very excited. Before I knew it, I was on my way back to Bangalore to manage the team and coordinate our work here. I am incredibly thankful that my first job out of grad school has placed me in my field of study and passion, and the role that I play at the IKC is comprehensive of everything I love about International Education. I get to continue learning about the Indian education system, I get to design and develop programs for students to study abroad, I get to prepare students for a transformative experience and hear all about it when they return. But the best part is that I get to listen to students’ dreams and work with them to find the path to make the dreams reality.
Suma: Jen, being a foreigner, lots of people ask you this question and I’ll ask you again: How do you come to work in the mornings?
I take autos from my neighborhood. I live only 3-4 km from the office, and am very thankful the office is so centrally located! At first the drivers tried to charge me more than necessary, but now they know that I’m a regular. I’m also learning Kannada, which helps me not only fight for a fair price but build bridges and relationships, too. I really like my morning ride to work and made a pact with myself long ago to stay off my phone so I could be a part of the life going by around me.
Ashok: What has been the most memorable experience of your life?
Haha. Well, I have a crazy memory and I’m thankful to have lived a pretty great life, so lots of things come to mind. But the most memorable RECENT experience would have to be the epic concert I went to this summer in Minnesota (I LOVE MINNESOTA!). Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw were on tour together; for those of you who don’t know country music, this is the ULTIMATE concert. It was also the first concert in our new open-air baseball stadium, so it was a very cool thing to be apart of. I went with my sister and aunt, who are two of my closest friends, and we were lucky enough to be in the standing area right by the stage. It lasted from 4:00pm – 11:00pm; with 40,000 people in the stadium, the sun beating down on us and turning into night, the thrill of being part of the action, and the absolute freedom to sing and laugh and dance with abandon, it was the perfect Minnesota Summer night.
Suma: You are really into art -seeing art and doing art. Why do you like it so much?
I believe that everybody has a story and it deserves to be told. The beauty of most art, be it music, a poem, a painting, a dance, a film, is that it tells a story. I’m in awe of the vulnerability that artists take upon themselves to create and to say what they need to say – whether it’s telling their story or somebody else’s. Personally, being creative is a necessary part of my life. It helps me process, it helps me relax, and surrounding myself with colors, textures, music, and images brings me life. Above and beyond that, I think there is a certain power that comes from creating and a joy that comes from making things just a little bit more beautiful.
What questions do you have for Jen?
[photo by ruth for nonasties.in]