January 28, 2015 Edition

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As part of his semester requirements in Coimbatore, India, Edward Harthorn took a three-week internship teaching students at Stanes School. Here he is teaching students in standard seven about the Tughlaq dynasty, one of the Delhi Sultanates during the Middle Ages.

Harthorn spends semester in India

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

Edward Harthorn of Walnut Ridge recently returned from a semester studying in India. The trip, through Williams Baptist College's study abroad program, allowed him many opportunities and gave him a chance to experience the culture over an extended time.

His journey started on Aug. 25, 2014, by boarding a plane for his first international trip. After a layover in Germany, Harthorn arrived in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, at about 3 a.m. alone and without a phone. He said this was the most heart pumping experience of the trip.

"The sights and sounds are completely different," Harthorn said. "That's when it really sank in that I was in a foreign country."

Harthorn joined six other students from across the United States and Canada and two directors and traveled to Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, where he stayed and attended school for the semester.

The groups studied at Bishop Appasamy College of Arts and Sciences. They hit the ground running, according to Harthorn, with a thorough orientation and an "Amazing Race," which saw the group visit many local sights and vendors all while taking public transportation.

"The college did a tremendous job of welcoming us," Harthorn said. A celebration with singing was held for the group and a pookalam, a design made from flowers, welcomed them when they arrived. "It was a humbling experience."

While there, Harthorn studied a variety of subjects including Indian literature, India's religious landscape, culinary dimensions of culture and the Tamil language.

"Some of the classes weren't what I expected," he said. He was taken out of his comfort zone the most by the Tamil class, which required him to meet with natives outside of class and speak the language. He said by the end of the semester he was beginning to get to where he could hold a conversation in Tamil.

"Our teachers took a profound interest in us," Harthorn said. They would often work with the students outside of class and encourage them to experience new things.

One teacher encouraged him to sign up for a 10k race, others told him about some academic extracurriculars he could take. His literature teacher took them to a wedding so they could experience that part of the culture.

"We got to see the everyday life you would miss in a couple of days tour," Harthorn said. From staying in the hostel with native college students to playing soccer at the neighborhood church to keeping up-to-date with local politics, the group was fully immersed in the culture that surrounded them.

As part of his semester requirements, Harthorn had to take an internship during his stay. He learned about an available internship at Stanes School, one of the oldest schools in India established in 1858.

"It knew its heritage and took pride in that," Harthorn said.

During the first half of the three-week internship, Harthorn observed classes and toward the end he was given the opportunity to teach 12 class periods in history, geography and English.

He said the teaching methods were quite different and subjects and lessons were taught at different grade levels than they are in the United States.

The teaching experience was at times very stressful for Harthorn as he was often learning the material just a few steps ahead of the students. He recalled being told he was going to lead a lesson on the Tughlaq dynasty, something that proved challenging since he knew nothing about it.

Harthorn learned a lot through his internship, not just about the subjects he taught, but about the teaching process as a whole and the certainty required to teach students.

"To lead yourself astray is one thing but you hate to lead 30 students astray," he said.

Harthorn returned on Dec. 11 and is attending regular classes at WBC. He has been taking college courses since eighth grade and graduated from Walnut Ridge High School in May with over 60 college credit hours acquired.

He is the son of Catherine and Dr. Steven Harthorn, who is assistant professor of English at Williams.

Harthorn currently has no plans for future study abroad trips but he is open to the idea and wanted to leave these words for others looking into the program, "Be prepared for whatever comes your way and be open to new possibilities."

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