Karunika Kardak, a first-year student at St Xavier’s College, is biting her fingernails in anticipation. Once she gets her acceptance letter, she will begin packing for Madrid to study at the Comillas Pontifical University as an exchange student.
“It’s an experience of a lifetime. People I asked for advice told me that what I’ll learn in another country will be more than what I’ll get to learn at home,” she said.
However, several challenges are in store for her. “Since I’m a vegetarian, I’ll have to cook for myself. Also, I’ve never lived alone.” The 18-year-old plans to rent an apartment and is looking forward to experience a new culture on her own. “I want to visit the Prado museum in Madrid and also travel across Europe.”
Today, students are keener to venture far from home in the pursuit of knowledge, experience and novelty.
“Exchange programmes give a lot of exposure to students,” said Dr Kirti Narain, principal of Jai Hind College, which has tied up with University of Ontario, Nottingham Trent University in the UK and Frazer Valley, Vancouver. About 28 students have participated in the three exchange programmes with two Canadian students coming to study at Jai Hind.
Geomara Fernandez, 25, an exchange student from the Amsterdam Fashion Institute, has been in Mumbai since January for a four-month stint at the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Navi Mumbai. “I wanted to learn more about the fashion industry outside the Netherlands. Indian clothes and fashion are really interesting. Everything here is so colourful.”
Fernandez thinks it’s important to learn about different countries and to work with people of different mindsets. She has been learning Hindi, travelling in the local trains and acquiring a taste for Indian food, which she had at first found “very heavy, spicy and different.”
“Exchange programmes give students exposure to foreign education, infrastructure and way of teaching,” said Dr. Suhas Pednekar, principal of Ramnarain Ruia College, which has this year, tied up with the University of Ontario and the University of Valparaiso.
“It definitely makes you more independent,” said Poorva Karkare, 21, who went to Switzerland as an exchange student in Class 11. Not knowing German made things difficult. At the Kanton Schule Wetzikon, where Karkare studied, all subjects were taught in German, so she had to grow familiar with German terms in physics and chemistry. “The teaching was different from India. There were fewer students, so we got more personal attention. I had already studied many of the things they were learning. But they teach everything in a lot of depth.”
Apart from fluency in German, her biggest gain she said was the experience of living abroad. “You’d usually go to Switzerland as a tourist. But it was a different to live in a small village where everyone knew each other. People say that the Swiss are very cold, but everyone was friendly and I’m still in touch with them.”