Americans in India – Deirdré Straughan on Woodstock, the Oldest American School

Kamla Bhatt Show show

Summary: ( in India go back a couple of hundred years ago - think 17thc when the British were establishing their presence in India. When you think of 17thc  there are couple of names that come to mind: Elihu Yale (, President of Madras and  Nathaniel Higginson (, who was the first mayor of Madras in the 17thc. Yale University is named  after Elihu Yale, who was born in Boston, but grew up in England. He was an Englishman. Nathaniel Higginson was born in Massachusetts, studied at Harvard and then went to England to work and from there made his way to India. But, that was in the 17thc. What about Americans in recent times? We talked to  Deirdré Straughan ( of San Francisco, who share her story about studying in an American school that was founded in 19thc in a remote town in the Indian Himalayas. That school was Woodstock ( founded in 1854 in Landour, Uttarakhand ( in India. The school was started by  an American and a British  points out Deirdré. Woodstock ( originally started for girls, but today it is an international co-educational school with students from different parts of the world. But, why did the founders choose Landour, a remote Himalayan town for their school? During the 19thc hill stations were popular and noted for their relatively safety from a health perspective. The hill stations were far from the hot plains and far from mosquitoes. You have to think pre-antibiotics time points out Deidre and that may have colored the founders of Woodstock to establish the school at Landour. The school was originally meant for missionary children, whose parents worked in British India and neighboring states. By the time Deirdre came as a student to Woodstock in the mid-1970s the composition of the students had changed. Only a third of the students were missionary children, the others were a mix of students from around the world. Deirdre highlights an interesting cultural dimension about the students who study at Woodstock. These are kids who were born in one country, grew up in another and now live in a different country points out Deirdre. The term "Third Culture Kids," is used to describe these students, who learn to straddle different countries and cultures.  Filmmaker and Woodstock alum Rahul Gandotra brilliantly captures this idea of "Third Culture Kids" in his film  "The Road Home (" Gandotra's short film was a finalist in this year's Oscars. Tune in to find out more about this little bit of Americana in India tune in to find out what Deirdré has to say about being an American in India and its distinguished alumni like Tom Alter and his cousins and TED curator Chris Anderson ( This interview was recorded and broadcast on TV in the San Francisco bay area. You can watch the full video interview here (