This summer, I was able to take part in a two-week intensive learning program in San Antonio, Texas. I didn't know what to expect, since it was my first year attending, but I heard so many great things about the program so I had to see it for myself.
I decided to take Gurmukhi 101 this year, which provides an in-depth overview of Punjabi grammar, vocabulary, and sentence structure. I really felt like I needed a much stronger grasp on the basics of the Gurmukhi script, and I truly think that I have built a good solid foundation from Sidak to continue building on in the future. I was also able to develop my speaking, writing, and reading skills at the same time while I was at Sidak, which was very helpful for me to immerse myself more into the language. I was encouraged to continue developing my skills outside of the program and use what I've learned as a base to start communicating and interacting with others in Punjabi. I was never given any formal education in the Gurmukhi script until Sidak came along!! I'm really thankful that I've been given the opportunity to attend this program to spark my interest in learning Gurmukhi, and eventually learning how to understand Guru's message through the Guru Granth Sahib.
Every day of the program was divided up into four sessions... the first three were dependent on the track which I signed up for, and the last session was a group session for all students. For the Gurmukhi 101 track, I had one session just specifically for Punjabi grammar instruction, and the other two sessions were set specifically for transcription, speaking, writing, and reading labs as well as history lessons, which were all spread out throughout the two weeks. I was provided with a binder with all the learning material, so it was very easy for me to read through the material covered in class if I didn't understand something and ask questions to my teachers throughout the day. During the personal development time, the teachers were always accessible, the students were always willing to help... at Sidak, you are a part of a sangat that encourages and motivates you to keep learning and making yourself better!! I loved the supportive environment at Sidak; it encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone and try new things, like taking Hukam in front of sangat, and of course, singing the Kanye West song Heartless during the Open Mic Night! Now everyone thinks that I'm American Idol bound!
After the three track sessions were over, I always looked forward to the fourth session of the day. The fourth session would always be some sort of informational or leadership development workshop run by well-known leaders in the San Antonio community. The informational workshops covered topics like gender constructions, falling in love, the events of 1984, and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The leadership development workshops covered topics like conflict resolution, the social change model, and the everyday activist. In every workshop, I was able to engage in the discussions and ask questions to better my understanding of the topic at hand. The facilitators of the workshops were not only credible but they were also very knowledgeable about their chosen topic! For example, Larry Mills, an executive member in the San Antonio Spurs organization, shared with us during his conflict resolution workshop the obstacles that he had to overcome in order for him to become the successful leader that he is today. The facilitators expressed so much enthusiasm about their chosen topic which made the workshops much more interactive and engaging! I could tell that the facilitators of these workshops really wanted us to take the knowledge that we gained from the workshops and apply it into our daily lives in our respective communities. I feel motivated as a Sidak 2009 graduate to take on what I've learned from the workshops and classes and share my newfound knowledge and experiences with the people in my community. Right now, I serve as an ambassador to all my family and friends from Florida and other places around the United States and Canada, and some of them hope to join Sidak next year, which I'm very truly excited about!
Overall, the Sidak program has not only given me the basic knowledge of the Gurmukhi script but also it has given me practical leadership skills that I can utilize when I start my college career in a few weeks at the University of Florida. I really look forward to becoming a leader in several organizations like the Sikh Student Association and sharing my experiences from Sidak with my college friends. I truly feel that participating in Sidak this year is a stepping stone of greater things to come, and I can't wait for next year! I want to give a big thanks not only to the San Antonio sangat for providing us with a safe and enjoyable learning environment but also to Waheguru for blessing me with the opportunity to be a part of such an amazing program like Sidak! It has changed my life for the better, and it will certainly change yours!