Olivier Kitanda has been visiting the Foreign Students Registry Office, Delhi University, regularly for a month. The 22-year old from the Democratic Republic of Congo has been in India for a year and has applied for a Bachelors in Business Studies at the varsity.
"Everybody is saying good things about India. Indian universities are held in high regard back home," says Kitanda, who lives in Madangiri, near Ambedkar Nagar.
While many Indian students opt for studies in the West, students from countries such as Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal and Vietnam have found a home away from home in India.
“What better place than Delhi University (DU) for further studies. It is very prestigious,” said Kitanda. “As many as 1,000 international students apply to the university each year. Those who get selected stay at the international hostels for men and women,” said an official at the Foreign Students Registry Office.
But prestige is not the only reason foreign students come to India. “Delhi is a safe city. It is peaceful,” according to Abdul Hassan from Afghanistan.
Hassan wants to pursue B. Com, as does his friend, Asadullah, also from Afghanistan. “Education in India is economical, not like in America, where it is impossible for someone from a modest background to survive without a scholarship,” says Asadullah.
Students from Afghanistan, they say, adjust easily in India. “The culture is similar and we don’t find it difficult to understand the language. Living in Delhi is quite easy,” says Hassan, who lives in Lajpat Nagar and has many Indian friends.
Kitanda, on the other hand, has had problems adjusting in the city. “During the one year that I have been here, I have learnt just a handful of Hindi words. The food is very spicy. People are polite but do not strike up a conversation easily,” he says. While at the undergraduate level, courses in science and commerce are popular, at the postgraduate level, MBA and MA in Languages is favoured.
But for students from Vietnam, the varsity has a very special course — an MA in Buddhist Studies.
“We have undergraduate courses in Buddhist Studies in Vietnam but no postgraduate programmes,” says Ngusen Thi Bich Van from Vietnam. “Since India is where Buddhism began, it is a logical step to pursue further studies here.”
There is only one thing that all four dislike about India — the weather. “It is extremely hot in summers and very cold in winters. Too many extremes.”