Alumni Spotlight: Devika Banerjee


Devika Banerjee is a rising senior at the University of Delaware, pursuing a degree in Environmental Studies with a minor in Resource Economics. She has interned with Sustrana, a strategic sustainability management firm based in Philadelphia, and recently studied abroad in Ecuador in spring 2014 to expand her education on an international level. Devika hopes to pursue a career that combines her passions for education and the environment.

Why did you decide to study abroad with SIT?

Devika: I was first introduced to SIT through my older sister, who studied abroad in Durban, South Africa a few years ago. After researching the program in Ecuador and talking to several alumni, I decided that the program fit my needs, providing both an academic and a language focus.

This program allowed me to participate in experiential learning to study the four complex ecosystems of Ecuador, while also examining sustainability and conservation efforts in local communities. All in all, I would do this SIT program again if given the option!

Did you run into a language barrier? Did you ever think you knew more/less of the language?

Devika: I knew that one of the biggest challenges I would face while in Ecuador would be the language barrier, given that my Spanish language skills were basic prior to studying abroad. During the first few weeks in Ecuador, I often found myself lost and confused with all of the classes and lectures being in Spanish.

Looking back at my time in Ecuador, I can now say that my biggest accomplishment was gaining an intermediate level of Spanish, where I am able to fluidly converse with just about anyone.

The Spanish-based classroom setting, coupled with the constant practice with local Ecuadoreans, I was able to gain a new sense of confidence in Spanish that I hope will open new doors.

Describe your most meaningful souvenir and why you love it?

Devika: The most meaningful item that I brought home from Ecuador was a beautiful hand-carved bowl created by the people Oyacachi – an indigenous community working to promote ecotourism and preserve their local culture.

This woodcarving is quite special because it supports the livelihood of local people, their economy, and their environment.

How has this experience impacted your future?

Devika: Studying abroad in Ecuador has certainly changed me as a person, allowing me to grow academically and more so personally. A field-based program was perfect for me, spurring me to push my boundaries and immerse myself in another culture and language.

The Independent Study Project, in particular, helped me gain exposure within a real-world context as I carried out a population study on Amazonian primates.

Ultimately, I brought home a broadened outlook of how communities in other parts of the world are interacting with their natural world, one that I can apply throughout the next steps of my career and life.