Even at a time when India is struggling with women’s safety issues and the ­economic ­slowdown, the country hasn’t failed to attract students from abroad. As a part of UKIERI’s Study India Programme (SIP) 2013, 200 UK ­undergraduates from over 60 UK ­institutions visited Delhi and Mumbai to participate in a three-week programme ­managed by IndoGenius and the University of Delhi.
Nicholas Booker, founder of IndoGenius, says, “The sole objective of this programme is to enhance mobility. It offers students an opportunity to ­experience new culture and understand different ways of working. As Max Mueller said, ‘Whatever sphere of the human mind you may select for your ­special study, you have to go to India…’ This is where the future lies. More than 4,000 students applied for SIP this year, I am hoping that this will increase to 10,000 by next year.”
Talking about the reasons why UK students should consider India for study/work, the British high ­commissioner, James Bevan says, “No other country has India’s combination of history, culture, literature and architecture... It is a world in one country. The learning and ­teaching in many of the Indian educational institutes is really cutting edge. To see India rising is a great ­privilege. One should come here to witness the future.”
Sharing her experience, Syana Rajaballi says, “After having spent three weeks in Mumbai and Delhi, I can safely say that any preconceptions I had about India have been dispelled. From seeing the extravagance of the Akshardham temple, to the ­simplicity of walking through the city and experiencing the life of street children around the Salaam Baalak Trust, this ­programme has helped us to ­cultivate our individual ­opinion. We got an insight into the ­flourishing business industry in India, and how businesses must adapt in order to address ­environmental changes. This proved to be so rewarding that many of us now hope to return to India to work in the future.”
It wasn’t only the UK ­students who benefitted from this ­programme; Indian students also gained in ­experience that will last long. Nikita from Delhi University shares, “Introducing our ­culture to the UK students and getting acquainted with their culture, this has been a great ­learning ­experience for me. As we got an insight into their ­culture, we could reflect upon ourselves and see our own ­culture with a renewed vision. Such ­programmes aid us in ­framing a broader and a more holistic view of life and the world.”
Making a few suggestions, she says, “More interactive ­sessions should be organised where students can talk about their ­culture, society and ­contemporary affairs through presentations and workshops, and highlight the political and economic aspects of their country. Also, the ­possibility of exchange ­faculty ­programmes should be ­considered at least for a semester and provisions made for transfer of credits for ­students.”
Appreciating the efforts made by UKIERI, Dr. Arabinda Mitra, Department of Science and Technology says, “This is a ­collaborative advantage. In today’s ­inter-connected world, the challenges we face globally are not defined or confined by geopolitical boundaries. No nation alone can solve these challenges. Therefore, it is imperative that we work together to address the ­problems in a holistic and impactful manner. In this ­context, such student exchange and mobility ­programmes are important.”
What our brit friends have to say...
India is full of surprises at every step. I thought there would be a larger degree of poverty, instead I saw people looking for opportunities and fighting for survival. Though life is tough here and there is a lot of competition, people are more optimistic in contrast to people in Britain where they have far more resources and opportunities. Corporate life and ­workplaces in India are almost the same as the UK. This programme gave me an insight as to how business is done in the rising economies and internationally. It has allowed me to identify my ability to lead, manage things and work in a team. It has definitely strengthened me as a leader. I am doing a degree course in international business management so it will be really helpful for me. The contrast of all cultures is really attractive. India’s tradition is thousands year old, but it is still being practiced today. On the other hand, this country is developing and becoming modern every day. Seeing tradition and ­modernity going hand in hand is really incredible.
When I landed in India, I had a strong feeling that this will be a once in a lifetime experience. We started our first day with a cycle tour around Mumbai. Though it was really hot and tiring, it was a good start to an adventurous and magical journey in India. With all the hustle and bustle, streets full of colours and enthusiatic people around, Mumbai is so different from London where people walk with their heads down and eyes glued to the road. The only similarity between India and Britain is that people want to develop and strive to be better. Getting to work on the first day of internship was the biggest challenge in Delhi, negotiating for the taxi fare, taking the metro. We got a chance to interact with people from various walks of life – ministers, businessmen, fashion ­designers etc. Their views and opinions are so different from ours. I have realised that reading is an easy way to form an opinion about a country. One should visit the places in order to experience things personally. This is why being a global citizen is so important. It gives you exposure and a chance to understand different cultures. I will be really happy if my flight gets cancelled and I get to stay back. For study or work, that I don’t know yet, but I would certainly like to come back for an ­adventure.