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Students from India participate in the Elon Academy

A partnership through the university’s college access and success program has allowed high school scholars from the Indian state of Kerala to take part in a month-long international exchange.

Left to right: Sandhya Kalyanaraman, Anirudh Dhar, Namita Sumil and Aravind Kumar.

By A. Vaughn Vreeland ‘15

Four Indian students from the city of Kochi are taking part this month in the Elon Academy, the university’s college access and success program for academically promising high school students in Alamance County.

Alongside their American counterparts, the students take daytime classes such as herpetology, neuroscience, ancient philosophy and engineering, while evenings are filled with activities including golf, racquetball, art, dance, swimming and drama.

The students live on campus and will make weekend excursions to Washington, D.C., the Great Smoky Mountains and the Outer Banks as they learn about American history and North Carolina wildlife.

“When I heard that this academy was all about activities as well as important subjects, I was really interested,” said exchange student Namita Sumil. “You can broaden your horizons, and that experience is something we can’t really get back in India.”

Three years ago, Associate Professor Terry Tomasek in Elon’s School of Education traveled to India with her Winter Term class to expose students to the power of global collaboration. Tomasek, an Elon Academy faculty member, started to conceptualize an international exchange program with one of the schools her students visited.

“One of Elon’s institutional priorities has always been to internationalize the campus,” Tomasek said. “We felt like internationalizing the campus also included internationalizing the Elon Academy.”

Tomasek’s vision became reality when Elon University President Leo M. Lambert accompanied the following year’s course to Chinmaya Vidyalaya, a school in Kochi. A discussion with Principal Maya Mohan led to the month-long exchange program now in progress.

One of Tomasek’s goals was for American and Indian scholars alike to examine prior assumptions about other cultures and recognize the similarities across cultures.

“Superficially, all of us might seem different,” said exchange student Anirudh Dhar. “But inside we’re all the same. That’s one of the main lessons I can take back from this.”

Dahr and Sumil are accompanied buy classmates Aravind Kumar and Sandhya Kalyanaraman, and their visiting teacher, Tuney Nandakumar.

Launched by Elon University in 2007, the Elon Academy is an intensive college access and success program for local high school students with high financial need or no family history of attending college. It combines a month-long residential program over three successive summers with follow-up experiences during the academic year.

The academy is a multi-year, year-round program beginning in the summer after the ninth grade and continuing to and through college.

Eric Townsend,
6/29/2013 8:00 AM