Shannon Shaughnessy, a then undergraduate student studying psychology and international studies, was determined to challenge herself and take a leap in 2019. She decided to go to India as part of the Summer in South Asia (SiSA) program offered through the Center for South Asian Studies (CSAS) at the University of Michigan. She had never traveled alone, especially to a country so far away and foreign. She mustered up the courage and prepared herself for the journey of a lifetime. 

“My six weeks in India were so unforgettable,” says Shaughnessy. “It was my first time traveling abroad, and I am so grateful I challenged myself.” 

While in India, Shaughnessy landed in Mumbai and volunteered with Enabling Leadership. The organization is a global nonprofit that creates youth programs using music, football, and Lego building, to help underprivileged children learn leadership and first-hand life skills. Shaughnessy was in the monitoring and evaluation sector, where she created a measurable scale that assessed the programs’ successes. 

“I mainly worked remotely, but we had leadership-building weekends in the mountains of Pune,” continues Shaughnessy. “I learned so much working with such a diverse group of people.”  

Started in 2006 with a generous donation from an anonymous donor, the SiSA fellowship has provided more than 100 students with funding to volunteer or conduct projects in India during the summer months. In addition to Shaughnessy, nine other Michigan undergraduate students participated in the program in 2019. They traveled all over the country and worked in varying fields of study and interest. 

“I ended up in a very nice area of the city, Bandra,” says Shaughnessy. “There were a lot of Bollywood stars living there, and whenever I met with the other fellow in Mumbai that summer, we would see who we could run into in my neighborhood.” 

Shaughnessy is a clinical psychology PhD student at the University of Miami, where she continues her work around youth. After leaving Michigan, she also completed a post-baccalaureate Intramural Research Trainee at the National Institute of Mental Health. Her research interests include the biological mechanisms of aggression, oppositional behaviors, and irritability in youth. 

“After that summer, I have continued to travel the world by myself,” adds Shaughnessy. “It was such an empowering experience, and I highly recommend it.” 

CSAS is currently accepting applications for the SiSA fellowship for the summer of 2023. They are due by January 20, 2023, and the results will be announced in February. The program is open to all undergraduate students at the university. 

“With Covid restrictions behind us, we are hoping for a lot of student interest,” says Matthew Hull, CSAS director. “Going to India and studying there as a college student changed the trajectory of my own life, and it’s an invaluable experience.” 

For more information on the SiSA fellowship, please visit our website