Oberlin Shansi Announces Four In-Asia Grant Awards

This Winter Term, three First-Year students and one Second-Year student will travel thousands of miles across the world to bring their creative and dynamic projects to life in Asia. Shansi congratulates the four In-Asia Grant recipients: Bikalpa Baniya, Olivia Evans, Marcus Hill, and Priyanka Sen — hardworking, enthusiastic, and committed students with a diverse range of interests.

Oberlin Shansi provides In-Asia Grants to Oberlin College & Conservatory students for the purpose of promoting individual and creative engagement with Asia. These $1,500 grants support individual initiatives in East Asia, Southeast Asia, or South Asia, including internships with non-governmental organizations, art explorations, environmental research, or other projects during the Winter Term or summer break. First-, Second-, and Third-Years are eligible to apply.

Bikalpa Baniya ’19, an international student from Nepal, entered Oberlin College with a mission — “helping Nepali students find their way to better education.” The 2015 earthquake that struck Nepal and killed more than 8,000 people deeply affected Bikalpa. He wants to give back, and plans to volunteer at Shighadevi Secondary School, located in the rural Sindhupalchowk District. This district was one of the areas most affected by the earthquake, with more than 4,000 killed and 95 percent of homes destroyed. Bikalpa will serve as a part-time math tutor for students in ninth and tenth grades, and he hopes to gain insights into the lives of the students and to identify the most effective ways he can provide help in the long-term. Upon his return to Oberlin, Bikalpa intends to partner with the Bonner Center for Service and Learning and Oberlin Young Educators to facilitate a discussion of the current education system in Nepal.

What is the cultural identity of the Chinese disapora? Olivia Evans ’18will ponder this question during her stay in Bogor, Indonesia, her mother’s hometown, for five weeks. She will trace the Chinese diaspora in Indonesia through oral history supplemented with her personal and academic understanding of the Chinese-Indonesian identity. She plans to interview close family members, engage in meaningful discussions with other family friends, and attend events within the community to gain a deeper understanding of her family history from migration to adjustment in the last century. As a prospective East Asian Studies major, Olivia looks forward to the opportunity to spark more interest in these issues at Oberlin. Going back to Indonesia for the first time since seventh grade, Olivia describes this project as granting her “access to a knowledge of Indonesian history that would otherwise be unavailable.”

Marcus Hill ’19 began college fueled by his invaluable experiences as a participant in Oberlin College’s pre-First-Year summer program, Science and Technology Research Opportunities for a New Generation (STRONG), during which he worked in a geology lab analyzing soil samples from China. For his first Winter Term project, Marcus will travel to the region of China where these samples originated to examine the problem of erosion along the upper portion of the Yangtze River, called the Jinsha River, as part of Oberlin College’s ongoing collaboration with Sichuan University in China. Marcus will accompany Assistant Professor of Geology Amanda Schmidt and Oberlin student Suzanna Doak ’16 to collect river sediment samples for thorough examination in Oberlin’s laboratories. In addition, they will investigate and document the history of fire and fire-related erosion along the Jinsha River. Marcus is thrilled to travel to China for the first time and looks forward to gaining firsthand experience as a potential Geology major.

Only four months into college, Priyanka Sen ’19 is already thinking of ways to put her ideas into motion. This January, Priyanka will return to her hometown, Kolkata, India, to provide assistance to the LGBTQ community, a highly marginalized and oppressed group in India. She will work with Kolkata Rista, a community-based organization, to tackle the problem of the high unemployment rate in the LGBTQ community. She plans to recruit students for a month-long Allyship workshop that will encourage and build sustainable relationships between the LGBTQ community and students. Afterwards, the students and LGBTQ-identifying community members will be encouraged to collectively develop a business proposal to establish Kolkata’s first restaurant that will be exclusively run by LGBTQ staff. Priyanka characterizes the project as “an extension of both who I am, and who I want to become.” She hopes to one day return home to India and design and direct community engagement programs for oppressed minorities.

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