‘I would be scared to study in the U.S.’

Shoot­ings in Kansas, a pos­si­ble hate crime, prompt some visit­ing In­dian schol­ars and tech work­ers to con­sider op­tions in Canada and Aus­tralia

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE WORLD - BY AN­NIE GOWEN an­nie.gowen@wash­post.com Swati Gupta contributed to this re­port.

new delhi — Anu­pam Singh, a mas­ter’s stu­dent, once dreamed of com­ing to the United States for his PhD stud­ies. But Wed­nes­day’s seem­ingly racially charged shoot­ing of two In­dian men in Kansas reaf­firmed his grow­ing be­lief that the United States isn’t a hos­pitable place for foreign stu­dents.

“I would be scared to study in the U.S.,” he said Saturday out­side a tea stall on the cam­pus of the In­dian In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy in New Delhi. “Did you read the news­pa­pers yes­ter­day? Two In­di­ans were shot.”

A Navy vet­eran who had al­legedly been in­tox­i­cated was charged with first-de­gree mur­der in the shoot­ing of two In­dian soft­ware en­gi­neers in a crowded bar in Olathe, Kan., Wed­nes­day evening. The as­sailant re­port­edly shouted, “Get out of my coun­try!” One man died, and the sec­ond was in­jured. A pa­tron who in­ter­vened was also hurt.

The pos­si­ble hate crime has prompted anger in In­dia and con­cern that the Trump-era United States is no longer a safe place for its thriv­ing com­mu­nity of visit­ing In­dian stu­dents, schol­ars and tech work­ers. The fa­ther of Alok Madasani, the In­dian in­jured in the at­tack, ap­pealed Fri­day from the In­dian city of Hyderabad to “all the par­ents in In­dia” not to send their chil­dren to the United States un­der “present cir­cum­stances.”

On a sunny day at one of In­dia’s most pres­ti­gious sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy cam­puses, the ef­fects of Wed­nes­day’s vi­o­lence were keenly felt.

Grad­u­ate stu­dents said they were chang­ing their post­grad­u­ate plans from the United States to uni­ver­si­ties in Canada or Aus­tralia. Oth­ers were field­ing tele­phone calls from anx­ious par­ents.

And par­ents who brought younger stu­dents to a Ru­bik’s Cube com­pe­ti­tion said they hoped the sit­u­a­tion was tem­po­rary, be­cause study­ing abroad in the United States re­mains the goal for many of the coun­try’s bright­est stu­dents.

The num­ber of in­ter­na­tional stu­dents at U.S. uni­ver­si­ties topped 1 mil­lion last year, ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment data, with the num­ber of In­di­ans up 14 per­cent, to 206,584.

“I used to think of Amer­ica as a place where there is greater racial equal­ity than ex­ists in In­dia,” said Dhriti Ah­luwalia, 26, a mas­ter’s stu­dent who wants to at­tend a pub­lic pol­icy pro­gram in the United States. “Now peo­ple are afraid. There is in­equal­ity. There is racism.”

Con­cern over the trou­bled U.S. po­lit­i­cal cli­mate, beginning with its rhetoric-charged pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, has re­ver­ber­ated through In­dia’s thriv­ing in­dus­try for test prepa­ra­tion and ad­mis­sions coach­ing, which pre­pares stu­dents for study abroad.

“Ev­ery­body is ask­ing me whether they should go or not, whether they should look at U.S. schools or not,” said Kavita Singh, who runs the col­lege ad­mis­sions coun­sel­ing ser­vice Fu­tureWorks Con­sult­ing in New Delhi. Many of her stu­dents will want to ap­ply to “elite schools on the coasts, in blue states,” she said, adding that they don’t want to look at schools “in the mid­dle of the coun­try, the red states, any­more.”

Some have sib­lings and friends al­ready in the United States who have stoked these con­cerns with talk of racially mo­ti­vated in­ci­dents on col­lege cam­puses af­ter Don­ald Trump was elected pres­i­dent in Novem­ber, she said.

Singh said it is too early to know the ef­fect on the num­ber of stu­dents study­ing in the United States.

But a study be­fore the elec­tion by two com­pa­nies that re­cruit in­ter­na­tional stu­dents found that 60 per­cent of 40,000 stu­dents sur­veyed in 118 coun­tries would be less in­clined to come to the United States if Trump won, com­pared with 3.8 per­cent who would be less in­clined if Hil­lary Clin­ton won.

And that was be­fore Trump’s travel ban threw im­mi­gra­tion into chaos and en­snared stu­dents and schol­ars from some of the seven af­fected coun­tries in its net. In­di­ans said they are un­easy about pos­si­ble fu­ture lim­i­ta­tions on stu­dent per­mis­sions as well as H-1B visas, the foreign visas for highly skilled work­ers. The soft­ware en­gi­neers in the Kansas shoot­ing — Madasani and Srini­vas Kuchib­hotla, 32 — were ad­mit­ted to work for a global tech com­pany on H-1B visas af­ter com­plet­ing grad­u­ate stud­ies in the United States.

“Right now, ev­ery­one’s ner­vous,” said Tasaduq Hus­sain, a PhD scholar in elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer­ing who said he still hopes to do post­doc­toral work in the United States. He was more con­cerned about visa lim­its than his safety: “The United States is a big coun­try, and there will be stray in­ci­dents,” he said.

“I don’t think the Amer­i­can peo­ple are anti-Mus­lim,” he added.

Singh, the math­e­mat­ics stu­dent and as­pir­ing PhD can­di­date, has in­ter­viewed at U.S. colleges. He ap­plied to the Uni­ver­sity of Mis­souri in 2015 but was re­jected. He’s try­ing again but only at schools in Europe and Aus­tralia.

“The de­ci­sion not to go to the U.S. did not hap­pen in­stantly,” he said. “I just kept hear­ing about in­ci­dents that peo­ple were leav­ing and be­ing thrown out. So I thought, ‘I don’t want to go to that coun­try.’ ”

“If Hil­lary Clin­ton was elected, then I would have gone,” he added. “There would still have been racism in the U.S., but it would not have been so much. As much as it is with Trump.”

AN­NIE GOWEN/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Some stu­dents at the In­dian In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy in New Delhi are look­ing at grad­u­ate schools out­side of the United States. “Ev­ery­body is ask­ing me whether . . . they should look at U.S. schools or not,” said Kavita Singh, who runs a col­lege ad­mis­sions coun­sel­ing ser­vice.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.