Bu Graduate Carrying out Fulbright Teaching Assistantship in Kolkata, India
Fulbright Recipient: Christine Purdy
Hometown: Tenafly, New Jersey
Class of 2013; double major in English and Cinema
Christine Purdy, a spring 2013 Binghamton University graduate, won a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship and is currently teaching at St. John's Diocesan Higher Secondary Girls' School, an all-girls school in Kolkata, India.
During her time at Binghamton, Christine held several roles which solidified her passion for teaching and encouraged her to apply for the English Teaching Assistant (ETA) opportunity. She acted as an Astronomy Lab Instructor, a Student Support Services tutor, and a Tutor-Counselor for Upward Bound. In addition to these experiences and pursuing two majors, Christine pursued research in Cinema. She worked with Professor Joyce Jesionowski and Professor Brian Wall from the Cinema department. "While they are both remarkable professors, they are even stronger mentors. Professor Jesionowski's The Amazing Everyday class exposed me to Satyajit Ray's films and since then, she has always encouraged and challenged me to ask questions. Professor Wall was my advisor for two research projects, one under the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH) and the other was my honors thesis work. He has helped me develop more as an independent thinker and researcher."
Christine speaks of her experiences at Binghamton University: "I truly believe education is power, and with it you begin to change your own situation as well as that of your community and the world. The reality of teaching is that you won't make a notable impact on everyone, but even the few students who embrace your words and push themselves further are encouragement enough to keep trying."
Christine chose to apply for the program in India partly because she "was fascinated by India's extreme diversity, from its languages and religions to its food and dress. Every state speaks its own language, has national dress, food, and cultural identity." However, the foremost reason was because the program provided the "opportunity to educate and empower young women. Women's rights, especially in India, are a pressing topic right now." In fact, her class now consists of seventy girls who are as passionate and enthusiastic about learning as she is about teaching.
"My first week was especially difficult because they [the students] treated me like a celebrity...I can't even tell you how many students asked me for my autograph. The celebrity treatment was initially strange. Our students don't live in cities, so we're the first Westerners many of them have seen. I understand where it comes from, but it's still hard to imagine why anyone would want my signature." For me, however, this is not too hard to imagine as Christine is an exceptional individual.
For Christine, living in Kolkata for the past few months has been an exciting experience. While the hot and humid weather can be rough, especially during the monsoon seasons, she says, "Kolkata is a cultural hub and many call it the food capital of India. There's no shortage of things to do, food to try and places to visit...I am huge fan of Satyajit Ray's films and was excited to have the opportunity to live in Kolkata; the city he loved and filmed on many occasions...I may even have the opportunity to work with an NGO here that promotes the use of Cinema in the classroom and in some of the local institutions' film departments."
Christine was initially nervous about applying for a Fulbright ETA, but the support of her professors, mother, and Janice McDonald, Director of the Office of External Fellowships, Scholarships & Awards, helped significantly. To future Binghamton students thinking about applying, she advises, "Focus on your strengths, and how to best present them to the Fulbright Committee. There is no one type of the 'right applicant'." Determine the skills and qualities you have to offer that are unique and describe them in an engaging way. Experience with teaching, tutoring and research are only part of the picture; be sure you demonstrate that you are a well-rounded individual with a passion for what you do.
Article Written by: Tasfia Rahman, Class of 2014