Elizabeth Purdy is an alumna of the 2016 CLS Hindi program in Jaipur, India. She currently studies at the University of Washington with a major in social welfare. In 2015, she received her Associate of Arts degree from North Seattle College. Elizabeth’s passion for languages ties in to her love of learning about other cultures and connecting with people across cultural boundaries. She frequently volunteers with refugees through the International Rescue Committee and other organizations in Seattle. When she has free time, Elizabeth loves to read, travel, and learn about other cultures and languages.
My interest in South Asia started while mentoring an ethnically Nepali refugee family from Bhutan. Hearing about their culture and people inspired my first trip to South Asia, and I ended up volunteering in a remote ethnically Nepali village in Darjeeling District, India, for a year and a half. I got to travel in different parts of India in that time and realized how much Hindi would help in getting around India. As soon as I got home to Seattle, I immediately began studying Hindi, and I’ve been at it ever since!
In a Word…
Hindi has a lot of fun idioms. One that we were taught on the CLS Hindi program was पेट में चूहे कूदना (“pet mein chuhe kudna”), which means for mice to be jumping around in one’s stomach, i.e. to be hungry.
One of my favorite experiences on the CLS program was volunteer teaching to local girls from a marginalized community. Travelling to India can be challenging because social problems such as poverty can be more visible than they are in the US. As a student of social work, it was very meaningful to be able to work with a marginalized community, even for just a few months. The experience also deepened my overall experience in Jaipur, and definitely challenged my Hindi! I am so grateful to have been able to get to know the girls we worked with. We even set up a penpal relationship with the girls and some students here in Seattle, so I feel like my relationship with them is still able to continue even though I’m now back in the United States.
Speaking Hindi in India
I would absolutely recommend that more people learn Hindi. India is such a beautiful and multi-faceted country, and knowing Hindi completely changes the experience. People are so shocked and surprised when a foreigner is able to talk to them in their own language! I once had a rickshaw driver stop his rickshaw and walk along with me for several blocks just so that he could listen to my Hindi (which was not great!). People are so excited, and so eager to help. It is the best reinforcement. And they’re very polite when you make mistakes.