Communication studies major Edhaya Thennarasu ’21 is an avid student of cultures. She moved to Rhode Island from India at 17, leaving behind her family and childhood home to study abroad. She wanted to attend an East Coast college for the cultural experience it promised.
“I’ve always felt connected to the culture here. The second I walked onto campus, I thought, ‘This is like being in Harry Potter.’ The sunsets here, the beaches—Rhode Island is a beautiful place. I was really afraid to take the huge step of moving, but I wouldn’t change anything I have done because of everything I have learned,” Thennarasu says. “Communication Studies has taught me who I am and how I can talk to people better and be a better version of myself.”
At URI, Thennarasu has had the opportunity to put theory into practice and broaden her cultural awareness. On spring break in an impoverished area of Peru last year, she participated in URI’s Alternative Spring Break, a program providing students interested in activism, service, and leadership with opportunities to work in communities in need here and abroad. Thennarasu and her fellow students were in Peru to study community resilience in poor communities. She wanted to understand how people who have so very little could be so very happy.
“We engaged in participatory action research to learn why their communication works so well,” Thennarasu says. “We wanted to understand their perspective, their way of living. The people we studied retained traditional practices and the good parts of modern living and created something sustainable,” she says.
‘Step outside yourself’
The Harrington School of Communication and Media student said her URI experience has exceeded her expectations.
“Every step of the way, I’ve been reassured about my decision,” Thennarasu says. “The professors are great. There are a lot of courses to choose from. You can triple major if you want. You get so much attention.”
Thennarasu quoted “The Summer Day” a poem by Mary Oliver that begins with a question: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’” She smiles. “My answer is, I want to give everything I have back to the world.”
Her advice to students? “Step outside of yourself. Make yourself as uncomfortable as you possibly can be. Every single time you’re afraid to do something, do it,” Thennarasu says. “If I feel a little nervous in the moment, I know I’m probably doing the right thing.”