Alumni Reflection: Sri Lanka

Hashini representing Sri Lanka at the Fall 2023 End of Program Workshop in Washington, DC

Greetings from the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean,” Sri Lanka! I am Hashini de Silva, a Global UGRAD who studied social sciences at the University of Maine (UMaine) in the fall semester of 2023. As the only UGRAD that semester coming from the humble roots of Sri Lanka, an island nation trying to pave its path in an illustrious world, stepping foot into the United States was revolutionary for me. The gorgeous state of Maine welcomed me with a warm embrace of affection and featured nature alongside transcending experiences and knowledge. Tying all these aspects together, I embodied multiple identities and roles throughout my stay there.

Displaying school spirit

First and foremost, I was a disciple of knowledge. I was enrolled in courses in sociology, anthropology, family interactions, and Maine studies. The professors, colleagues, and class atmosphere were unfamiliar, but in a good way. As it is known, the East and West of the globe are comprised of various cultural distinctions. This was remarkably reflected in my coursework. Being in another country as my home country’s ambassador, I took part in an international panel discussion on family life and belief structures to educate people about where I am from; I strongly believe that knowledge and experiences are gained in order to be shared. I proudly completed my academic chapter in the United States by successfully making it to the Dean’s List, the highest academic achievement of my university.

Enjoying a typical Maine winter!

Secondly, I was an explorer who could not be limited by the time constraints of the semester. I challenged myself to balance my studies with leisure, while also living almost 15,000 kilometers away from home and what I previously deemed my life to be. With the help of a few friends and my Excel sheets, I planned trips across the East Coast, from the stunning destinations in Maine to Boston, onward to the Big Apple (otherwise known as New York City) as well as New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Washington DC. I saw and experienced places by myself and with my newfound friends in the most memorable ways possible. One of the many highlights of these trips was to experience the pulsing energy of the vibrantly bustling Times Square to see an outstanding Broadway show.

Volunteering in the local community

Thirdly, I was a friend and comrade. I found a loving and affectionate home thousands of miles away in my flat mates, UGRAD cohort, and all my other friends from all over the world. I am firmly convinced that no one should be nervous to take the leap of faith to study or live out of their box with diverse people. Diversity is what makes us similar. Finally, I was a volunteer who dedicated my time to the betterment of the society surrounding me. I have always engaged in volunteering, and this came naturally to me in this acclaimed country as well. Being able to help people from one of the most developed countries in the world gave me insight into how one can be of help to people in need regardless of where they are from or who they are.

Hashini and other UGRADs at the Fall 2023 End of Program Workshop

To conclude this brief recap of my exchange semester, let me enlighten you about my current wanderings. I am pursuing an internship as a requirement of my degree, at a renowned think tank in my country. I am still learning about myself, my community, and the world, while seeking more opportunities to flourish my full potential in life, hopefully along the lines of sociology and South Asian studies. With the unwavering support gained from experiences on my UGRAD journey, I will continue to inspire the posterity of my Motherland to bring optimism and peace into the space that surrounds them.

Once a UGRAD, Always a UGRAD!