Vinita has a Master’s degree in Geography from Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi and a second master’s in Environment Planning from School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi.
She has worked for many years in the field of International education working at the US-India Educational Foundation (USIEF) managing the Fulbright grants for U.S. scholars and students and the Institute of International Education (IIE) administering their programs in the field of education and leadership development.
What position do you hold at Middlebury Schools Abroad? What has been your career path so far?
I am the Director of the Middlebury School in India. Prior to this I worked at the US-India Educational Foundation (USIEF) as Senior Program Officer, managing and administering the Fulbright-Nehru and other Fulbright grants for U.S. scholars and students in India.
I started my career in the area of education management at Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, a bi-lateral organization of the Governments of India and Canada. This was followed by a long stint at the India office of the Institute of International Education (IIE). I was key to establishment of IIE’s office in India and managed IIE’s priority programs with private Foundations in the field of education and leadership development.
While working at these organizations, I developed my expertise in higher education management and continue my work in this field.
What country have you always wanted to visit?
I grew up in a very small town of India, in an age where globalization was a very far off thing. The large Atlas at my home was the only gateway to far off lands. Names of places like Saskatchewan and Newfoundland would amaze me.
Also, it was the era of cold war where India was aligned with the then U.S.S.R. We would receive a lot of Russian promotional magazines and low priced Russian classics. The illustrated magazines brought Russian culture and community to life for us. This is one country that I have always wanted to visit.
I would love to visit not only Moscow and St. Petersburg but also the rural hinterland of Russia. I also want to see the famed cities of Bukhara, Samarkand, Tashkent which were part of the former U.S.S.R.
Why is language learning and cultural immersion important to you?
Language learning and cultural immersion are complimentary to each other. You cannot have one without the other. These are the two aspects of study abroad that make the learning complete. Reading books and watching movies/ videos gives you a just a glimpse of life in a different culture.
When you travel to another country, live through the experience, only then do you realize the cultural differences. It sensitizes you to the culture of your host country. You have to live in a country to make your experience real.
Knowing the language brings out the context of simple things like TV commercials, popular songs. A few sentences in the local language endears you to people around you. This creates an opportunity for true immersion in the host culture.
What was your favorite traveling experience?
I have travelled to different parts of India and 19 countries in the world. Each travel has been a unique experience.
The one experience that stands out is of traveling from Tokyo to Mt. Fuji in Japan. Equipped with some instruction on a piece of paper in Japanese (which I can neither read nor understand), started our three hour journey with two train changes. Using sign language and showing around the small piece of paper combined with the precision of Japanese trains, we had a beautiful journey taking us to our destination.
The other incident that stands out is of my first visit to Paris. As we hurriedly got down at an interchange station, my husband exclaimed that we were at the wrong station. Instead of ‘Villiers’ we had disembarked at ‘Sortie’. For a moment I panicked and looked at the signs at regular intervals only to realize that sortie was the French for exit.
What does your home-country's culture value that is taught in your program?
The concept of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, a Sanskrit phrase which embodies the philosophy that the whole world is one family, is at the core of our program.
India is a multi-cultural country. Each region of India is diverse in its culture and language. Yet there is unity in this diversity. It is a country that teaches you to respect diverse cultures and adapt best practices from each.
Our program helps our students to learn from India’s religious pluralism and cultural diversity.