Studying hindi in new delhi
Why I chose this travel experience
I know that many students arrive in the SSP program with a firm idea of where they are going after graduation. Some, like me, have much more tenuous plans. My first year in the SSP program developed my interest in security policy-making and sharpened my geographic focus on South and Southeast Asia. I am especially, and unsurprisingly, interested in India because of its sheer population mass, economic development, nuclear weapons, and relations with Russia, China, and Afghanistan. Simply put, what India does matters. Having studied India from various angles over the past several years, I wanted to see what security felt like in India and find out how they talk about it.
How this will help in the job search
40 hours of intensive in-class language study has helped me cover a lot of linguistic ground. It has given me the resources and the interest to continue developing my Hindi skills at home. Language ability is a marketable skill in international security fields, and so I am confident that this will help my future job prospects. My experience applying for, receiving, and being turned down for jobs up to this point has taught me that many employers are also interested in cultural awareness. I am interested in starting my career as an intelligence analyst and my analysis of events in India can only be as good as my comprehension of the cultural context in which those events occur. On a more unexpected note, I have learned the value of leveraging ‘Georgetown.’ I wanted to attend an address by US Ambassador Rahul Verma at the Observer Research Foundation here in Delhi, but it was listed as a “By invitation only” event. I contacted the foundation to see if I could talk them into extending me an invitation and represented myself as a graduate student at Georgetown University. The research fellow who replied to me introduced herself as a graduate of the Georgetown Leadership Summit and graciously provided me with the invitation to attend.
Lessons I’ve learned
I’ve learned that SSP is always comfortingly near, no matter how far I travel. The first event I attended in Delhi was a presentation about the development of China’s military by Professor Oriana Skylar Mastro. I have also learned more about how much language reflects culture. I feel like Hindi’s gender conjugations reflect gender relations within the culture. I have also noticed how some words or even sounds are associated with Islam, Pakistan, or the Arabic world. As language reflects culture, culture also illuminates security issues. I attended the cinema to watch a bollywood film. One of the previews was for the upcoming film Phantom: “The Story You Wish Were True.” This mainstream media production featuring huge bollywood stars is a fictionalized story of Indian counter-terrorist agents entering Pakistan and killing ‘Haris Saeed’, a character very transparently modeled on Hafiz Saeed who was mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack. The film has been preemptively banned in Pakistan due to complaints by Hafiz Saeed. In this manner, a nation’s culture both reflects and directs its security concerns.