EECS sophomore Aleksander Eskilson wants his classmates to know they can study abroad. Yes, they have a demanding major, and yes, it will require extra planning, but it is worth it.
Eskilson spent nine weeks this summer in India, learning advanced Hindi and exploring one of the oldest civilizations in the world. He attended an intensive language study program through the American Institute of Indian Studies. More than 30 students would spend each weekday in class, receiving specialized instruction and one-on-one tutoring. After classes, students would practice their new language skills among the 3 million people of Jaipur. (Listen to Eskilson share his story in this video.)
The soft-spoken Kansan tested his Hindi in interesting ways. He found he enjoyed haggling, and in his favorite bazaar, housed in an old underground train tunnel, he participated in spirited negotiations for such goods as leather sandals and antique clocks―his most prized finds. Over dinners with host family, Eskilson would have broad-ranging conversations in everything from computer science research to ancient Indian mythology.
A desire to be in India and experience the culture helped him quickly adapt to a lack of hot water and stable Internet connection. Unregulated traffic, flooding from monsoon rains, and other more significant challenges had a profound effect on the future engineer.
“Every day I would encounter these beautiful, exotic situations, but at the same time, I would be reminded that India, particularly the region I was staying in, was a developing nation.”
His summer in India reinforced his belief in the importance of engineering.
“Engineering is not limited to the United States, and not just limited to English. When you develop a global sense for engineering, I think it gives you not only an appreciation for all the infrastructure we have here in the United States but also an awareness of the scope of engineering problems around the world.”
After learning he would need to take a foreign language for his linguistics minor, Eskilson turned to the KU course catalog. When he saw Hindi was offered, he jumped at the chance to learn more about a language that fascinated him. His dad’s Ravi Shankar albums helped create an early interest in India and Asiatic languages.
After taking German in high school, Eskilson wanted to learn a language with broader global appeal. Hindi, which is spoken by nearly 500 million people, is the third most spoken language, behind only Mandarin and English. Along with the tremendous reach of Hindi, Eskilson points to the growing Indian economy and the opportunities within multinational corporations.
He made an appointment with the Office of Study Abroad before the end of his first semester. He thought the summer after his freshman year would be ideal for study abroad, since he hoped the following summers would be filled with internships. His growing interest and experience in Hindi made India a natural choice for him. He worked closely with program coordinator Justine Hamilton to create his program. Hamilton, his Hindi professor Geetanjali Tiwari, and others helped him find funding for the trip.
“The best thing you can do is make an appointment with the Study Abroad Office,” said Eskilson. “It takes planning, but you can do almost anything you want to do. If a dedicated program does not exist at KU, you can find one or make your own.”