Alessia De Vitis is an alumna of the 2014 CLS Punjabi program in Chandigarh, India. She’s from a small town in Connecticut, but is currently living in Washington, D.C.; she’s a junior at American University, where she works as a Punjabi translator and studies international relations and law. When she isn’t studying and translating, she’s cooking and seizing every chance she gets to travel.
I wanted to study Punjabi because there was a large Punjabi population in my hometown and Punjabi culture always fascinated me. In addition to my Punjabi studies with CLS, I’ve enrolled at the American Institute of Indian Studies for an academic year to study Punjabi, and I’m currently a Punjabi translator at my school and get to use Punjabi almost every day. After I graduate from American University, I would like to spend more time working and living in South Asia and ultimately get a law degree. I would like to go back to Punjab and improve my skills even more!
Learning more than a language
CLS gave me the opportunity to learn about the Punjabi language, of course, but also about Punjabi and Indian culture and politics. It also taught me a lot about myself!
Less than I bargained for
I was in New Delhi trying to buy a bus ticket. The ticket is usually 117 rupees, but when I stepped up to buy the ticket, I thought the ticket vendor was saying “170 rupees.” I thought he was overcharging me, so I started bargaining with him. After a few minutes arguing with him I “settled” for the ticket he was selling me. Then I got on the bus and started counting my change – and I immediately realized that I had been confusing the numbers 70 and 17. I had been saying I wanted the 170-rupee ticket and he had been saying that it was only 117 rupees. The ticket vendor was just trying to correct me! It was as funny as it was embarrassing.
In a word…
I love the term “Rangla Panjab”, which means colorful Punjab. It’s one of my favorite terms because it’s true both literally and figuratively: literally, in that I loved being able to wear colorful Punjabi suits. (A lot of the locals were confused and though I was Punjabi.) It’s also figuratively true in that Punjabi people are the most fun, welcoming, happy, and inspiring people I have ever met.
If you had one day in India…
Visit Amritsar! It’s one of the most heavenly and welcoming cities I have ever been to.
Words of wisdom
CLS is an amazing opportunity to challenge yourself. Don’t feel discouraged if your language skills aren’t great – you will learn so much!