This winter term, three first-years and one second-year student will have the opportunity to pursue independent study and creative projects as recipients of the Oberlin Shansi In-Asia Grant.
The award provides $1,500 to support individual initiatives east Asia, southeast Asia, or south Asia, including internships with non-governmental organizations, art explorations, environmental research, or other projects during winter term or summer. The award is open to first- through third-year students.
Bikalpa Baniya ’19, Olivia Evans ’18, Marcus Hill ’19, and Priyanka Sen ’19 are this year’s winter term recipients.
An international student from Nepal, Baniya entered Oberlin College with a mission—“helping Nepali students find their way to better education.” The 2015 earthquake that struck Nepal and killed more than 8,000 people deeply affected Bikalpa. He wants to give back and plans to volunteer at Shighadevi Secondary School, located in the rural Sindhupalchowk District. This district was one of the areas most affected by the earthquake, with more than 4,000 killed and 95 percent of homes destroyed. Bikalpa will serve as a part-time math tutor for students in ninth and tenth grades, and he hopes to gain insights into the lives of the students and to identify the most effective ways he can provide help in the long-term. Following winter term, he intends to partner with the Bonner Center for Service and Learning and Oberlin Young Educators to facilitate a discussion of the current education system in Nepal.
What is the cultural identity of the Chinese diaspora? Evans will ponder this question during her stay in Bogor, Indonesia, her mother’s hometown, for five weeks. She will trace the Chinese diaspora in Indonesia through oral history supplemented with her personal and academic understanding of the Chinese-Indonesian identity. She plans to interview close family members, engage in meaningful discussions with other family friends, and attend events within the community to gain a deeper understanding of her family history from migration to adjustment in the last century. As a prospective East Asian Studies major, Evans says she looks forward to the opportunity to spark more interest in these issues at Oberlin. Returning to Indonesia for the first time since seventh grade, she describes this project as granting her “access to a knowledge of Indonesian history that would otherwise be unavailable.”
Hill entered Oberlin fueled by his participation in the college’s summer science program for incoming first-years, Science and Technology Research Opportunities for a New Generation (STRONG), during which he worked in a geology lab analyzing soil samples from China. For his first winter-term project, Hill will travel to the region of China where these samples originated to examine the problem of erosion along the upper portion of the Yangtze River, called the Jinsha River, as part of an ongoing collaboration with Sichuan University in China. He will accompany Assistant Professor of Geology Amanda Schmidt and Oberlin student Suzanna Doak ’16 to collect river sediment samples for thorough examination in Oberlin’s laboratories. In addition, they will investigate and document the history of fire and fire-related erosion along the Jinsha River. Hill says he is thrilled to travel to China for the first time and looks forward to gaining firsthand experience as a potential geology major.
Only four months into college, Sen is already thinking of ways to put her ideas into motion. This January, she will return to her hometown, Kolkata, India, to provide assistance to the LGBTQ community, a highly marginalized and oppressed group in India. She will work with Kolkata Rista, a community-based organization, to tackle the problem of the high unemployment rate in the LGBTQ community. She plans to recruit students for a monthlong Allyship workshop that will encourage and build sustainable relationships between the LGBTQ community and students. Afterward, the students and LGBTQ-identifying community members will be encouraged to collectively develop a business proposal to establish Kolkata’s first restaurant that will be exclusively run by LGBTQ staff. Sen characterizes the project as “an extension of both who I am and who I want to become.” She hopes to eventually design and direct community engagement programs for oppressed minorities in India.
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