Critical Language Scholarship Program | Jasmine Kinkead
U.S. Flag   State Department Seal   A Program of the U.S. Department of State

Jasmine Kinkead

Jas­mine Kinkead is an alum­na of the 2018 CLS Bangla pro­gram in Kolkata, India. Now a junior, Jas­mine trans­ferred from Trea­sure Val­ley Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lege to the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ida­ho, where she stud­ies Inter­na­tion­al Rela­tions with a focus on African and Asian Stud­ies. She hopes to work with an NGO, using her Bangla to assist with trans­la­tion or human­i­tar­i­an aid. Jas­mine loves to play ten­nis and played dur­ing her first two years of col­lege. When she’s not study­ing or work­ing you can find her on the courts!

Learn­ing from Family

I was born in Cal­i­for­nia and since then I have lived in nine oth­er states. How­ev­er, I most­ly grew up in Ida­ho and Ore­gon. For the first two years of col­lege I moved in with my aunt, uncle, and cousin. My aunt’s side of the fam­i­ly is from Bangladesh. Liv­ing with them opened my eyes to a new lifestyle entire­ly. For exam­ple, I learned how to cook ঘুগনী (Ghug­ni) which is a dish with gar­ban­zo beans and my favorite হালিম (Haleem), a mix­ture of spices cooked with lentils and some­times goat. Ini­tial­ly I chose to learn Bangla because I want­ed to con­nect more with the part of my fam­i­ly that doesn’t speak English.

Through­out the pro­gram I start­ed to real­ize how many life­long friend­ships I had formed, not only with native Ben­galis liv­ing in Kolkata but with the oth­er CLS stu­dents. Every­one I met on the pro­gram inspired me to become a bet­ter Bangla speaker. 

Chang­ing Career Goals

Before I went to India I had a pret­ty sol­id idea of where I want­ed my career to go but after the CLS expe­ri­ence I became aware of more oppor­tu­ni­ties. I switched my major from med­i­cine to inter­na­tion­al rela­tions to learn more about orga­ni­za­tions like the UN and the Peace Corps and how study­ing Bangla fits in with those. 

I know there are a lot of Eng­lish speak­ers and Bangla speak­ers who need to under­stand one anoth­er. When my Bangladeshi aunt first moved to Amer­i­ca she learned Eng­lish by watch­ing TV shows and she said it took her near­ly sev­en years to ful­ly feel and express her emo­tions in Eng­lish. I want to be able to help those who need more than what tools like Google Trans­late can provide.

A Live-Sav­ing Connection

One day, a local woman grabbed my arm and pulled me out of the street because a bus was turn­ing the cor­ner and I wasn’t pay­ing atten­tion. I saw her lat­er sell­ing flow­ers under the Howrah Bridge and I man­aged to ask her in full Bangla if I could take a pho­to with her to remem­ber her. She show­ered me in com­pli­ments on know­ing some Bangla and hap­pi­ly oblig­ed. Meet­ing sweet peo­ple like her was almost a dai­ly experience.

Shar­ing Food

My host fam­i­ly were great chefs. My host mom was inter­est­ed in Amer­i­can dish­es and ingre­di­ents. I remem­ber she asked what spe­cif­ic cuisines Amer­i­ca loved the most and I explained to her that because of the vast amount of peo­ple in Amer­i­ca com­ing from dif­fer­ent places in the world there aren’t real­ly dish­es that are only Amer­i­can (oth­er than maybe Native Amer­i­can foods). Amer­i­cans some­times even eat break­fast for din­ner and this seemed to be a new con­cept for her.

Dis­pelling Myths

Many peo­ple have pre­con­ceived ideas about what liv­ing in India is like, but the CLS Pro­gram has helped me dis­tin­guish what’s true from what’s not about Indi­an stereo­types. For exam­ple, a few peo­ple think India is real­ly unsafe and they ask me how I felt walk­ing alone around Kolkata. I think it was sur­pris­ing for them to hear that I usu­al­ly felt com­fort­able explor­ing the mar­kets, cof­fee shops, and streets by myself.


CLS Alum­ni Ambas­sadors are recent CLS par­tic­i­pants who take lead­er­ship roles as active and pos­i­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the CLS Pro­gram by engag­ing with CLS alum­ni and rep­re­sent­ing the pro­gram to var­i­ous audi­ences. If you would like to get in touch with a CLS Alum­ni Ambas­sador, please con­tact clsalumni@​americancouncils.​org


Alumni Profiles

Jasmine Kinkead
Jasmine Kinkead
Bangla 2018
Kolkata, India

See More Profiles


Posted Date

May 06, 2019