Friday, April 1, 2016

Study Trip to India: An extremely rewarding experience

Students at SAIS learn inside and outside the classroom. Today, Farima Alidadi, a current student in the Latin America Studies Program (LASP) at SAIS Europe, tells us how she and a group of SAIS students spent the one-week break in January 2016 after the end of the first semester exams. 

The trip brought together students in the LASP program across the Bologna and Washington campuses. 

During the break earlier this year, the SAIS Latin American Studies Program (LASP) sponsored a one-week study trip to India with the aim of examining Latin American relations within a global framework. 

In the past, LASP students had participated in study trips to countries such as China, Brazil, and Costa Rica. This year, it was the first time the Program traveled to the South Asian country.

I saw the trip as an invaluable opportunity to strengthen my knowledge of the region having worked in Colombia on a Fulbright grant. At SAIS, I am focusing on international development and social inclusion in Latin America, areas of great importance for India as well.

I learned about the trip when Anne McKenzie, Senior Academic Coordinator for the LASP program, came to SAIS Europe. I was very excited about applying for this study trip --for which there were ten spots available-- and I am grateful to have been selected to participate. To prepare, we met as a group throughout the fall semester to strengthen our knowledge of India in terms of politics, economics, and development through research presentations.

Before I knew it, the fall semester was over and I was boarding a plane to New Delhi.
Farima (first from right) and her classmates with Dean Vali Nasr (center)

Lead by Francisco E. González, LASP Senior Associate Professor at SAIS, we explored the growing economic, diplomatic, and political links between India and Latin American countries, within the context of energy supply challenges, food security issues, and evolving geopolitical dynamics.

We met with Indian, Latin American, and American businesses, diplomats, scholars, and journalists based in New Delhi and Mumbai, which allowed us to assess the opportunities and challenges ahead for a South-South relationship that holds great trade, economic, political, and cultural potential. The organizations we met with included the Mexican Embassy, UNDP, Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Aditya Birla Group, and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).

These meetings were extremely valuable as we learned of the various areas of opportunity for Indo-Latin American relations, including energy, mining, information technology, pharmaceuticals, tourism, and education. Each meeting gave us a different perspective on these relations, but they all emphasized the importance of stronger ties between Latin American countries and India.

When we were in New Delhi, we attended a reception with Dean Vali Nasr where we met SAIS alumni and prospective students. The event was hosted by a SAIS Europe and LASP alumnus.

"The trip to India was a great experience,” said Martina Improta, a second year student who spent her first year in Bologna. “[It] deepened my knowledge of this emerging global player and enhanced my understanding of the strategies it uses to penetrate new markets and to increase its leverage in world politics.”

At the UNDP
Ending my first semester at SAIS with this trip was extremely rewarding. The trip not only allowed me to gain great insight into the political, economic, and cultural complexities that tie Latin American countries to India, but it also reinforced my passion for the region and illuminated how the various regions I am connected to are related. I have always been passionate about Latin America, but because of my Iranian American background, it was important for me to study the region within a global context.

When I was in India, the implications of the lifting of Iran sanctions and the effects of India’s investment in Latin American energy sources and other geopolitical dynamics came up many times during our meetings.

Gaining the field experience in India through interactions with Latin Americans, Americans, and Indians all interested in Indo-Latin American relations gave me an interesting perspective on this issue that I would not have been able to gain through just the classroom itself.

The trip has given me a new outlook when approaching Latin America and I cannot wait to apply it to future classes and experiences in the region.

Farima Alidadi
SAIS Europe 2016

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