Muslim Wire

ECU Fulbright award winner learns about culture while teaching in India

Posted in Politics, Society by muslimwire on October 20, 2009

ECU alum Sara Searcy, who graduated in spring 2009, got her chance to live in New Delhi, India after receiving the 2009-2010 Fulbright-Nehru Teaching Assistantship fellowship. Searcy will live in India for nine months. Another student, Diana Gliga, received the fellowship to go to Romania.

With the fellowship, Searcy co-teaches grammar and conversation at a Delhi Government School. Searcy has been in New Delhi since early August.

The Fulbright program was established in 1946 and is sponsored by the United States Department of State and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The program was established under legislation brought on by late Arkansas senator J. William Fulbright and functions in 155 countries.

Searcy wanted to go to India to learn about a culture different from her own. “Part of my motivation for applying for a Fulbright fellowship was the desire to live and work in a community abroad and learn, in a direct and immersive manner, about how life is lived in a different cultural situation than my own,” said Searcy.

She was also interested in the experience of teaching — in this case, in a foreign context. Because she had very little prior experience teaching in a classroom setting, she said the stress and rigor of being placed in a new situation could reveal traits about her she hadn’t tapped into before.

Searcy has a keen interest in learning about the Indian culture, but at ECU, Searcy didn’t become interested in the anthropology field until later in her college career.

“I graduated with a double major in cultural anthropology and art (painting and drawing). I began my studies as an art major. I developed an interest in cross-cultural aesthetic traditions and added anthropology as a second major in my third year at ECU,” she said.

“My studies with Dr. Derek Maher had a great influence on my decision to apply to a South Asian country for the Fulbright,” she said.

Maher is a professor in the Department of Religious Studies at ECU and teaches courses such as Buddhism, Classical Islam and Tibetan religion and culture.

“I took several courses with him during my time at ECU and visited India for the first time this past summer as a participant in his ECU in India study abroad program,” said Searcy. Searcy became interested in India by reading and studying about the country.

Maher also helped her get settled in India.

“We spent a lot of time there. I showed her where to go and gave her advice about health and customs. I helped her with her grant for Fulbright,” said Maher.

According to Maher, along with the Fulbright fellowship, Searcy applied to graduate school at Temple University and signed up for his study abroad program. She got accepted into all three but deferred her acceptance to Temple for a year.

Maher took Searcy and several other students to India for 25 days. At the end of the program, Searcy and five other students stayed behind. After returning to the United States for a month to visit family, Searcy went back to India.

Michael Bassman, director of ECU’s Honors Program, said, “Given Sarah’s imagination and intelligence, coupled with her love of learning and traveling, I expect Sarah will return to the U.S. after her Fulbright and enter a graduate program. We will certainly see great success down the road,” said Bassman.

“She is an outstanding student,” said Holly Mathews, her anthropology adviser. “She had wide-ranging interests, a love of art and culture and truly embraced learning,” said Mathews.

With her many accomplishments at ECU, Searcy hopes to accomplish many things while in India.

“I hope to foster in my students a delight in speaking English and reading for pleasure and for understanding. I hope to learn how to correctly wear a sari, puff roti over an open flame, sing the Indian national anthem and speak my thoughts, if only in an elementary manner in Hindi,” said Searcy.

“With every day comes a new set of interesting experiences. I am very fond of my experiences with my students,” said Searcy. She has traveled mostly in northern India and is planning on visiting a Camel Fair in Rajastan at the end of the month.

Searcy recommends students to apply for the Fulbright at ECU. To apply, e-mail Dr. Brigit Jensen at or visit the Fulbright Web site at

See Searcy’s blog at:

This writer can be contacted at

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