Earlier this fall, the first class of American graduate students arrived at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) to study Urdu as part of the re-launched Berkeley Urdu Language Program in Pakistan, conducted in collaboration with the American Institute of Pakistan Studies (AIPS). From 1973 until 2001, BULPIP was permanently based in Lahore, Pakistan and provided intensive Urdu language training to American students, scholars, and teachers with research and professional interests in Pakistan, Islam, the Muslim communities of South Asia, and Urdu language and literature. Following 9/11, a State Department warning prohibiting students from traveling to Pakistan forced the program to temporarily relocate to Lucknow, India. In 2014, the program finally returned to Pakistan.
I recently sat down for an informal discussion with the participants in this year’s program. The students are mostly PhD candidates—though one is a first-year Masters student. They represent a range of humanities fields, from Near Eastern Studies to Art History. They are also a diverse ethnic mix, including Pakistani-Americans, Indian-Americans, and European Americans. All of them were thrilled to be in Lahore and wished that they had more opportunities to explore the city. Unfortunately, due to security concerns, the students’ off-campus movements are quite restricted. The students were also very impressed with LUMS. According to Elizabeth Bolton, a PhD student from The University of Texas at Austin’s Department of Radio, Television, and Film, “The campus is beautiful—more beautiful than UT-Austin”. Continue reading