Michelle Masters spent spring 2017 in India, completing her bachelor’s degree and volunteering at an orphanage for girls. It was her first trip overseas and it was made possible by the John S. Linakis Scholarship from the American Institute for Foreign Study, awarded annually to a student who demonstrates a commitment to social justice. “I have a significant interest in humanitarian issues, so the words came pretty easily,” said Masters of the essay that helped her stand out among college students from across the United States for the honor.
She studied Indian history, sociology, Islamic art and Hindi at the University of Hyderabad. “My fondest memories involve fairly regular interactions with people,” she said, “Indian University students but also international students from places like Syria and Yemen. Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians … In a time where there’s a lot of divisive rhetoric going around, it was nice to connect with all kinds of people.” Masters is a History major and very interested in world religions; she said the coexistence of so many religions in India was one of the reasons she wanted to travel there.
At the orphanage, she helped the girls build English language skills. “English is used at a lot of universities and it’s certainly socially advantageous to know it,” she said. “Since the director wants the kids to have every advantage possible, he asked me if I could help out with their writing, speech and pronunciation.”
Masters returned to the United States just in time to participate in Russell Sage College’s 100th commencement ceremony and is now researching graduate programs. “My long-term goal is to do work that enables me to advocate for others,” she said.