Gwen Kaliszewski

Credentials: 2022 WISLI Elementary Hindi Student

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Language Institute and Level: SASLI / Elementary Hindi

Why did you choose to study a language through WISLI? What attracted you to our program specifically? I wanted to study Hindi and WISLI seemed like the best program, and it was the only one that was in person this summer. There were one or two other programs out there but they were all online. WISLI just seemed very engaging; I looked over the syllabi and everything and it looked very interesting. It seemed like a whole package and the fact that it was in person was very important.

How has studying a less commonly taught language enriched your life? I’m still in undergrad right now but I want to go to graduate school for anthropology (anthropology of South Asia), so it’s very important to me that I learn Hindi and that I start as soon as possible. It’s been really exciting and I think it will help me a lot academically. I think in my class specifically there’s been a big cultural emphasis to learning Hindi, which also really attracted me to WISLI. I feel like learning Hindi here has enriched what I’m already doing academically.

What makes studying a language at WISLI/UW-Madison unique to you? I really enjoyed the cultural aspect of learning Hindi while in the classroom, but I also like how while WISLI is an intensive program, you also have time for yourself. I feel like there’s some programs where you’re supposed to live with the people, or take a language pledge. But I really like that there’s time to decompress and absorb everything you learn. It feels very balanced, this program. It is very intensive and I’m learning so much but I also get some space, so I think it’s very effective and fun.

How do you plan to use the language you’re learning in your personal/professional journey? I would love to do fieldwork in India, or maybe Pakistan because I want to learn Urdu eventually. So learning Hindi would allow me to do fieldwork in India/Pakistan and also to read documents. But what I’m most excited for is being able to talk to people in Hindi instead of in English and I think that’ll open up more doors/avenues. 

What are you most looking forward to in your language program? Or events that you have already done? We are supposed to watch a movie (in Hindi) every weekend as part of our homework, which has been fun. Our teacher is also organizing a Cricket match, which should be a very fun event.

What has been the impact of the  WISLI Tuition Scholarship for you?  What would you say to other students who might be interested in applying for the scholarship? I feel like the scholarship makes the program feel like less of a big deal in a way, because I’m not putting so much money into it. It’s given me the ability to want to come back next year because I’ll be able to afford to do it again. And even this summer I feel like the scholarship gives me more freedom to get more of what I want out of the program rather than feel pressure to do a certain amount of work because I put in so much money. Now I feel like I have my own personal goals where the work I put in feels like it’s for myself rather than for an external reason.

Do you have any advice for students who are studying the same language as you? I think the homework we’ve had has been helpful, and handwriting flashcards as well. I like saying the words out loud and writing them down as I make the cards. Repetition is very useful to me as a learner. Something I found that has been useful is watching movies. In the beginning I was just reading the subtitles but now I can recognize a lot more words.

What is your favorite word/phrase/proverb in your language? One of the words for ‘life’ is जिंदगी, which I’m sure is also a Persian loan word. I think it sounds very pretty and it’s cool that it’s used in both Hindi and Persian!