When I began researching colleges six years ago, I did not cast my net outside the US, my home country. The University of Delhi, then, did not appear on my list of choices — after all, I hadn’t even heard of it.
This may have been for the best: On a recent visit to North Campus, I discovered that, for foreign students, the most formidable obstacle to attending DU might be figuring out how to apply.
My visit began auspiciously enough. I instructed the rickshawwallah to drop me off at University Plaza, which, on the whole, seemed like any college green in America, albeit with more police officers. A student at the help desk for the Delhi University Student Union pointed me toward the Faculty of Management Studies building, which houses the Foreign Students’ Registry Office (FSRO).
Once inside the office, I approached a woman sitting at a desk and recited my pitch, in which I pretended to be a student hoping to enrol: “Hi, my name is Robbie, and my father was just transferred to the American embassy here. Is there someone who can answer questions about submitting an application?”
Without looking up, the woman nodded and motioned to an empty chair across the office. Soon after I sat down, a female student worker in a pink Abercrombie & Fitch polo and jeans came over to assist me. I repeated the pitch. “You are 12th from which board?” she asked. I looked at her, dumbfounded. Board? Which board?
The worker realized that she had lost me. “Oh, you are 12th from U.S.,” she said. “The deadline is 31st May. It’s over.” I decided to switch gears and ask if she could tell me how I might gain entry one year from now. “What sort of grades do you need to get in?” Now it was her turn to look dumbfounded. I had forgotten that there are no grades in India, only marks. But rephrasing the question did me no good. “You can take admission next year,” she responded.
“The deadline has passed.”
“But how do I apply?”
“You cannot apply.”
“No, next year. How can I apply next year?”
“You can fill out the form online.” And with that, our meeting ended.
I returned to University Plaza knowing as much about the DU admissions process as I did when the day began. On the way, I encountered a representative from Kingfisher Training Academy, who, unlike my friend in the FSRO, seemed genuinely eager to talk to me. I turned down her offer for a free airhostess training seminar, however, and pursued my backup plan: a visit to the office of the Dean of Student Welfare.
Within minutes of my arrival, I found myself sitting in the deputy dean’s office. Again, I recited the pitch.
“Oh, sure, you can apply,” a student worker said. “But it’s best if you come back Monday.”
I gently informed her I had been told something else entirely at FSRO, and several phone calls were made on my behalf. Then came the final word: deadline over. Apply online next year. I left the office empty-handed, thankful that I already have a degree. Then again, hospitality training at Kingfisher might not be so terrible.