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TRANSFORMATIVE EDUCATION ABROAD

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Owing primarily to the sky-high cut offs at sought after colleges within India, an increasing number of students graduating from high school are looking abroad for their higher education. While it is unfortunate that we cannot retain our best talent within the country, there is a very real, bright side to this student exodus, says Kartik Bajoria, an alumnus of the New York Film Academy   

An education abroad provides the pursued degree; crucially, it also serves as an experience that can change and dramatically alter a student’s outlook and world view. Indian students studying abroad have a unique opportunity. And here’s how.

A SENSE OF INDEPENDENCE & SELF
In India, children grow up mostly abiding by their parents’ wishes. A number of crucial decisions, ones that govern education such as subject choices, course choices and the like, are made, in large part, by parents. It could therefore be argued that Indian school students aren’t always the most independent, self-confident individuals, since they have seldom exercised their own opinions or acted at their own behest. When these children and young adults are put in a situation where they are far removed, psychologically as well as geographically, from family, they experience an altogether new, hitherto unknown sense of freedom. Of decision making at a micro and macro level. Arguably for the first time in their lives, they are in charge of their own destinies. And while this may take some initial adjustment, it is, ultimately, a much needed development of their personalities that finally serves positively, in making them whole, actualized individuals. Much before and aside from any intellectual or erudite benefits of studying abroad, Indian students begin to change, in terms of their innate personalities. That, is an extremely valuable evolution.

GLOBAL EXPOSURE
This is a phrase that is liberally used without really understanding its true meaning. When an Indian student is abroad for education, he or she is presented with an environment that is vastly different from what has come before. The ideas, opinions, cultures, likes, dislikes, lifestyles, morality, world-views of multiple nationalities that they simultaneously interact with is a genuine eye-opener for Indian students. It is this melting pot, this interaction, and this assimilation, that leads to global exposure. Until seeking foreign shores, most Indian students would have existed in a kind of bubble, a cocoon of socially and culturally familiar surroundings. Safe, unchallenged, blissfully unaware even. By putting oneself in the midst of an international education, the people, the places, the thoughts, the concerns, both on and off campus, in class and outside – it all acquires a global perspective. Because there is little local about the issues that are debated, or the experiences that are shared, one’s knowledge is enriched, and one’s outlook, transforms. Of course, this doesn’t always sit well with students. The phenomenon of culture-shock is true, and exists. However, I’m inclined to believe that in today’s digitally connected global village, the negatives of this kind of global exposure will be far outweighed by the positives. And so, a global exposure to an Indian student abroad, is invaluable.

NETWORKING
It is a well-known and widely acknowledged fact that a significant reason for investing the kind of time, effort and money needed for an education abroad, is to build contacts. When Indian students, not unlike those from other countries, leave their home states and study in an institution abroad,  they organically become part of an international community. They earn themselves the right to belong to an elite alumni of a global institution, one that will look out for one another, one that will have the other’s back. This networking proves especially helpful from a job and career standpoint, and at a later stage in life, from a personal and entrepreneurial stand point as well. There are legendary alumni associations of a number of ivy league and other renowned institutions the world over.

These well-oiled and extremely bonded organizations are not just places where individuals look out for one another; as a cohort, they have the potential to really bring about change and make an impact by combining forces. To become part of any one of these legacy-institution’s alumni is a matter of pride but also, a transformative experience.

CONFIDENCE
Finally, perhaps the single biggest change that comes about in Indian students who go abroad for a foreign education is in their confidence levels. The sheer physical act of living away from pampered and cushy homes, leading an entirely DIY lifestyle (that is alien to most Indians), fending for oneself, adjusting, accommodating, and the simple act of ‘dealing’ with life in a foreign land on a day to day basis, brings about an emotional development that has eluded a student until that point. One tends to suddenly, and rather quickly, ‘grow up’. From looking for housing, to cooking one’s own food, doing laundry, time management, making friends from different countries, contending with language barriers – all these, small and big adjustments, where one finds ways and means of surviving and thriving, make an individual, infinitely more confident that he or she was. People often contend that the same experience can be sought by moving cities within India. it is vastly different. Being abroad, the physical and psychological challenges it presents, are entirely different.

And the degree of confidence making a go of it abroad will instil in simply incomparable to a domestic move.

Before concluding, I do want to categorically state, that an education abroad, is certainly not just about contending with challenges. It is immensely fun, enriching, and life-changing in all the most positive, and beautiful ways. If only we could ensure that these scores of students would have opportunities in India that they’d be proud and eager to return to!

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