Courtney Fulcher, an alum of the 2016-17 Academic Year NSLI-Y Hindi program in Indore, India, received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University. Courtney is currently a Fulbright-Nehru English Teaching Assistant in Pondicherry in South India.​

Courtney’s journey to learn Hindi began with Latin. As Hindi is not commonly taught in the U.S., Courtney was studying Latin in high school when she realized that she wanted to learn a spoken, non-European language. This inspired her to learn Hindi, which motivated her to apply for NSLI-Y.​

Looking back on her study abroad experience, Courtney reflects on the adjustment to the different teaching styles in India and the challenges that accompanied it. While always a strong student in the U.S., she quickly realized that Hindi would not come as easily. While investigating the differences in schooling between the U.S. and India, Courtney embarked on an independent research project to study alternative early childhood education in Varanasi, India. This research project launched her interest in teaching English in India. This intersection of linguistics and international education led her towards her current Fulbright position as an English Teaching Assistant in South India. ​Courtney notes that this accomplishment would not have been possible if not for the passionate support from her Hindi teachers over the years, encouraging her continued pursuits of the language. ​

Besides linguistics, Courtney has cultivated an interest in older ‘filmi’ songs as a DJ at a New York radio station, WKCR, where she often plays South Asian music. Her appreciation for Hindustani Classical music can be traced back to her experience with NSLI-Y. Living with her host family in Indore allowed her to familiarize herself more with South Asian music. Whenever Courtney travels in India, she seeks out music stores that still carry either cassette tapes or vinyl records so that she can discover older music. Courtney recounts how a listener of her radio show once called the station to thank her for playing songs that she had not heard since growing up in India in the 70s. Her exposure to Hindustani Classical music inspired her to engage more closely with this genre by DJing radio shows since returning from NSLI-Y.

To other NSLI-Y alumni, Courtney strongly encourages applying to fellowships/scholarships like Fulbright to embrace immersive language-learning again. As alumni have already experienced language immersion, they can utilize this asset to further their interests in a language and culture. Although it can be daunting, she recommends applying anyway, especially if alumni feel passionate. She shares how she was rejected by NSLI-Y the first two times she applied, but viewed rejection as an opportunity to re-evaluate, receive feedback, and try again. For those interested in language immersion, Courtney suggests Ganga-Yamuni culture, 90s Bollywood films, north Indian food, and languages such as Urdu, Kabir, Thumri, and Mira-Bhai as great reasons to study Hindi specifically! She explains how her experience as a student is helpful to her new role as a teacher; she instructs a classroom in the same learning environment that she previously studied in. As Courtney says, “Learning a language teaches you how to learn anything.”​