Bennington Girls are (Not Easy)

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I was three when I began to speak English. I was ten when I became a writer. I was fourteen when I published my first English novel. I was fifteen when it became a local bestseller. I was sixteen when it won the National Literary Award for best novel of the year.I was seventeen when I was nominated to represent my country at the Iowa International Writer’s Program.I was eighteen when I applied to college.I was nineteen when Bennington found me. I was nineteen when my life truly began.

My name is Thisuri Wanniarachchi and I’m a Junior at Bennington College. I  study Political Economy with a focus on Conflict Resolution and Education Reform. I came to Bennington hoping to study writing, but after walking into a Conflict Resolution class on the Palestine-Israel Conflict, I discovered a side of me that I had forced myself to hide over the years. I grew up in Sri Lanka, which, as most of you know, was home to a brutal civil war. My entire life I had kept my thoughts on my home conflict to my self. For as long as I’ve known, I was taught to look at war as necessity. For the longest time I was blind to the difference between the state and the government.   I used to believe that the state was the government and that one must seldom question the state. I used to believe that privilege was a social construct; I failed to realize that I was blinded by my own privilege. It is at my political philosophy classes at Bennington that I was introduced to the concept of democracy in its truest form. Bennington transformed me from a conservative who believed that sometimes autocracies can help countries be better, to a true democrat who spoke against autocracy, sometimes even disregarding my own safety. Bennington taught me that privilege is blinding.
At Benington I was exposed to some of the most inspiring people I’v met in my life, whose work was on par with the leading experts of their respective fields. I was astonished by how hard they worked on the academic side of their plans during the two semesters and spent their Field Work Terms travelling the world doing what they love.  Bennington produces some of the best artists, actors, writers, political activists, scientists, musicians and writers that graduate out of any university not just in the United States but in the world.

In my first Field Work Term I wrote my second novel, which was a fictional story on privileged youth of the newly rich elite of Sri Lanka: an elite that was being formed due to corruption caused by the existing autocracy. Due to security reasons the story was censored in numerous ways. Many well wishing lawyers advised me not to publish it. One thing I learnt during my first few weeks at Bennington was to “never, ever play it safe.” So I published the censored version of the book. Its first edition sold out in a week. And four months later, a massive national campaign against corruption, nepotism and autocracy elected out the former President, restoring democracy.

My second Field Work Term I interned at the Ministry of Higher education in Sri Lanka. My Bennignton Plan focuses on using education as a tool to find sustainable solutions to issues in Post- Conflict nations and this Field Work Term truly helped mold my plan into a more practical one. I became more interested in understanding government institutions that are involved in the process of education reform and political reforms that make  education reform possible.This summer I’m interning the Presidential Secretariat in Sri Lanka to learn further about government structures and their role in political reform. Working for the office of the first President they voted for is any Political Science student’s dream.

In many ways Bennington saved me. Bennington taught me that writing alone won’t change the world; you have to walk the walk as well.  And that’s what Bennington students do; student from New York to Calcutta, Paris to Colombo,  talk the talk and walk the walk.  Nothing about what we do is easy.

So if I were you, I wouldn’t call Bennington Girls “EASY.”

I would dare to be one of them.

 

 

 

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