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Alumni Profile: Dharma Khalsa ’12

May 16, 2013

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    Dharma Khalsa ’12
Dharma Khalsa ’12

Major: International affairs
Hometown: San Francisco, California
Award: Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in South Korea

Can you describe your Fulbright award, where you will be traveling, and what you’ll be doing while you’re there?

I will be traveling to South Korea to be a Fulbright teaching assistant. I will be teaching English, dropping knowledge, and hopefully cultivating a love for learning while bringing a lot of laughter to the process.

What drew you to studying a foreign language? What excites you about the idea of teaching English in the country you have been placed?

Language, in my experience, is a powerful tool to not only communicate, but to connect. When you learn a language different from that of your own, you gain a much deeper sense of understanding and appreciation for a country and its people that is not otherwise possible. Ultimately, language for me has been a vehicle to gain greater insight into places beyond a mere traveler’s perspective, garnering me an important tool to explore the world on a significantly deeper level.

I am excited to teach English in South Korea for many reasons, but I’m especially excited to live and immerse myself in a culture so different from that of the one I have lived and grown up in. I am excited to push myself to move beyond what I am accustomed to and comfortable with, exploring the intricacies of a different part of the world.

Have you participated in any study abroad trips during your time at Lewis & Clark? If so, what was that experience like?

I participated in two study abroad trips during my time at Lewis & Clark, and both were incredibly transformational. For my sophomore year I studied abroad in Vietnam, and then subsequently in Sevilla, Spain, during my junior year.

During these experiences, I found that the more of the world I saw, the more I wanted to see. The experience of building a life in a new country was not always easy, but I found that I learned more about myself, people, and the world in a day than I often did in a year “at home.” Every day was an adventure, full of new experiences, new flavors, and often new, and unforeseen, frustrations. My study abroad experiences opened my eyes in ways I could never have anticipated or even thought possible, and instilled in me a curiosity for the world that I know will remain with me for the rest of my life. 

How do you think your Lewis & Clark education has contributed to you seeing yourself as a citizen in a global community?

At Lewis & Clark, I pursued a degree in international affairs, which I feel trained me to analyze the profound complexities of our world and the roles we as individuals can have in either harming, or improving, the lives of others. Lewis & Clark not only allowed, but encouraged, students to study abroad, stressing the idea that our actions as individuals often have global impacts. At Lewis & Clark, especially as an international affairs student, I was pushed to think beyond the confines of our immediate environment, and from a fundamental level, critically think from a global and community-based perspective. 

What are your plans for the future, and how do you think your Fulbright experience will figure in those plans (graduate school, travel, future careers, etc?)

I have endless plans for the future—can’t stop, won’t stop. I plan to go back to school in the near future, perhaps for an MBA leadership program. Though I don’t know if in-classroom teaching is in my future long-term, I am interested in working in educational reform at the policy and institutional level. I have come to believe, by way of my own schooling, that education is the foundation of any society—which should be a fundamental human right—and that progress is impossible without it. Education impacts the ability of individuals to understand everything from cultural differences to compassion and understanding for the people and world around them. The ability to do so is vital, with the inability to do so leading to devastating cases of misunderstanding and repression in our world. As for future travel plans, I hope I never stop traveling and exploring. I intend for it to be a lifelong addiction.

Any advice to share with other Lewis & Clark students applying for similar awards in the future?

My advice for applying for similar awards in the future is to GO FOR IT! I applied for Fulbright knowing it was a competitive program and that there was a good chance I might not get it, but I’d never know if I didn’t try! I knew that the biggest obstacle was to push past laziness as well as fear of getting rejected, but I knew that I didn’t want to look back and ever say “what if” when thinking about my choices in life. When applying, I gave it my best and tried to remain open to whatever was then meant to be. 

Is there anything else you’d like to say to future Lewis & Clark students?

Life is full of unknowns, but such an adventure. Be mad to live, take advantage of every opportunity, play a lot of frisbee, and charge ahead. I promise you, the best is yet to come!

International Affairs