Arts

Prabhroop Chawla proposed the courses to the university last December. Photo: Komal Joval.

Courses offered in January, open to community members

What do you do when you want to take a course that’s not offered at the university? For Prabhroop Chawla, the answer lies in creating it.

Chawla, a fourth-year student in international development and globalisation at the U of O proposed the idea for a Punjabi language and Sikh diaspora course to the Faculty of Arts last December, and in the span of four months, the courses were announced by the university administration.

The courses will be made available to students as of January 2019.

“I’m just really happy that when I took the initiative it was received very well, and everyone has just been wonderful throughout,” she told the Fulcrum in an interview, noting that it usually takes five to six years for something to like this to come into effect.

A Vancouver native, Chawla is Sikh by faith and hails from a Punjabi family.

“When I initially moved (to Ottawa), I noticed that the (Sikh) community was definitely smaller … than it is in Vancouver or in places like Toronto, but I immediately got involved and got to know people in my first year,” she said.

“I’ve always been really passionate about learning about my heritage and my religion, my language, culture … and I thought well, why not share that with others?”

AHL2100, is an introduction to Punjabi, and like all language courses will focus on oral, written, and reading comprehension, with added lessons offering cultural context to the language through poetry, and literature.

AHL3100, the Sikh diaspora in Canada, will focus on the historical context of Sikhism and its contribution to Canadian society.

As Chawla explains it, the course aims to be both academic and interactive.

“We are expecting to have guest speakers from different fields; politicians, (educators), the technology sector, business, finance, from all realms, to highlight their achievements but also to serve as an inspiration and guide students, and to understand the contemporary and historical contributions of Sikhs within Canada and how each of these individuals in some way or another contributed to it,” she said.

The courses require no previous knowledge of the culture, language, or religion, and Chawla encourages students without exposure to the culture to give them a try.

“I feel like a lot of times people do have a lot questions but there isn’t a platform or the resources … to channel their curiosity and I really hope that this will serve to do that in an open, fun and engaging and interactive environment.”

For her, having these courses is also an opportunity to stay connected to her roots.

Chawla shared that her favourite aspects of Sikhism lie in its “emphasis on equality, love for all, and its openness,” which she believes resonate with Canadian values as well.

Chawla is currently registered for both courses, and looks forward to taking them in the Winter semester.

“I want to thank the university from the bottom of my heart for being so open, encouraging and supportive, and for taking the initiative to welcome this idea with open arms and to work on implementing it.”.

If you have questions, comments, or suggestions for the courses, you can email Chawla at pchaw097@uottawa.ca.