The Oxford of the East has welcomed many a foreign student with open arms. Each year, numerous students from various countries of the world come to the city for pursuing higher education. In a tête-à-tête with Citadel, some international students share th
With the city being a hub of world-class academic institutions, some international students share their experiences of cultural integration
Attracting a huge number of students from across the globe, Pune has been providing quality education to students of diverse nationalities. The reputed educational institutes of the city, namely, Savitribai Phule Pune University, Symbiosis Institute and Fergusson College, have a considerable amount of foreign students. Owing to the liberal and unbiased approach of these colleges, it has been noticed that more foreign students have been enrolling themselves with these institutes over the years. Indeed, these institutions, going global, follow the Indian motto, ‘Guest is Godlike’, with a lot of conviction! Ryutaro Aoyagi, who’s pursuing his MA in Economics at Savitribai Phule Pune University, (SSPU), expresses, “I am from Japan and my objective of studying here is not only to get a degree, but also to understand the Indian culture, traditions, and the various perspectives of the Indian nationals. The city’s growing at a fast rate, and I am very satised with the overall environment here.” Seiya Chida, who’s from Japan too, admires the safety the city provides. Having been in the city for more than a year now, also studying economics, he feels the environment is getting better. “But on the other hand, the rampant bribery is a problem,” he comments. Speaking about the Indian philosophy and spirituality, Heedo Kang, a South Korean national majoring in Philosophy at Fergusson College, says, “Indian philosophy and spirituality are one of their kinds. It attracts people from far and wide. I wanted to know about Indian traditions, customs and lifestyle, and hence I am studying philosophy. Life is different in South Korea. There’s a lot more freedom here and is more peaceful. Also, I found my life partner, who’s also Korean, here. Destiny, isn’t it?” He cannot help blushing at the end. Yasir Arafat, who’s from Somalia and is doing his BA in Economics, has fond memories of the city. “The calm weather and friendly people of Pune attracted me. There’s ample greenery around. Plus, Fergusson College, which is one of the best in India, gave me a lot of opportunities to make my dreams come true!” Emesha Piumini, a resident of Sri Lanka, won the ICCR scholarship and hence is now studying for her MA in Economics in SPPU. She reminisces, “Pune’s climate and lush greenery make me miss my country a little less. The initial months were stressful, because of the documentation procedures. Moreover, the competition here is erce, just like in my country. Also, The Indian Council for Cultural Relations, (ICCR) needs to provide more assistance,” she stresses. Pune offers a lot of cherished memories. The city, giving a reection of the cultural side of the state, is ahead in making the perfect moments come alive for everyone! Yogita Tahilram, from South Africa, who’s studying for her BA in French at Fergusson College, says, “I made some of my most dear friends here. I’ve become a stronger person here, and discovered who I wanted to be.” Moving on, Ryutaro shares a tale about the friend India gave him. “I met an Indian engineer on Christmas Eve 2015. He was a happy and respectable person, and we bonded as I taught him Japanese while learning English from him. He had a very responsible position at a rm, but wanted to move to Japan to start a new life. I could easily draw parallels with my old self, as I had quit one of the largest Japanese nance rms before coming to India. It wasn’t easy, though. I told him about my experiences and of taking up
something challenging. A few weeks later, I got a mail from him, stating that he’s moving to Japan, having received working offers from IT rms there. Then I met him in Japan when I went back home during vacations. I’m glad that our bond has only grown stronger with time!” Not always is the city unfamiliar when you come here to live and study. Chandni Das, who’s born and brought up in Saudi Arabia, has paid some visits to the country before, during summer holidays, but now that she’s living here for two years, she feels that Pune is richer in culture and traditions, and better in education. Also, as many others, she just loves the climate, cool and pleasant. But that doesn’t mean that life is all rainbows and butteries for them here. Having different cultural backgrounds, ethnicities and colours, foreign students have their own set of problems. Heedo recalls being mocked and called ‘ Chini, Chini’ (Chinese, Chinese). Yogita chips in, “Though I am in Pune from the last 6 years, I continue to face problems with regard to communication, since there is a language barrier as I don’t understand Marathi. I’ve found that a majority of people refuse to adapt and will insist on conversing in Marathi, despite knowing that I don’t understand it. There’s an attempt to force it down our throats. It simply isn’t that way, nor does it help. I hope the people adjust a little more to those who are new to the language.” Em e s h a , ag r e e i n g wi t h he r, continues, “Though the citizens are good, sometimes, they lack hospitality. Being a little friendly or understanding won’t hurt!” Elaborating further, Ryutaro explains, “The most annoying problem that I have faced is traffic; it is becoming more haywire with each passing day. Everybody here is in a rush, though, as per my observation, most of them aren’t punctual and run late. Also, the people at the trafc signal tend to get impatient very quickly. As soon as the signal turns green from red, incessant honking starts. Road accidents claim many lives each year, and hence trafc education and awareness is the need of the hour here!” As for grievances, the international students have to face a lot of hassles at the Foreign Registration Ofce (FRO). Each student has to pay multiple visits to collect all the numerous documents from here, and the organization’s unpunctuality adds to the chaos. A lot of improvements have to be made in the overall working of the ofce, in order to make it more convenient for foreign students. So, what suggestions do they have for us? Well, rstly, proper co-ordination between the educational institutes, the scholarship systems and the FRO is a priority. Secondly, a system for looking after lively interactions and a better communication channel needs to be established at colleges, making this whole ride a little easier and supportive. Also, it’s our attitudes that need to be addressed. Discrimination against those who are not ‘like us’ needs to be eradicated. The foreign students’ main motive to come here is to understand our cultures and traditions, which reect subtly yet loudly through our behaviours and mindsets. It’s our viewpoint that needs to be broadened to embrace more foreign students and visitors.
Savitribai Phule Pune University