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5 common differences between college life in India & Abroad

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

As you ponder about the next stage of your academic life, you may be debating between pursuing your degree in India or abroad. You probably have heard stories of college life from your cousins, seniors or others and built your own notion about it. Whatever your expectations are, analyse what academic culture and curriculum suit you the most, because college life in India and abroad are vastly different.

Here are five differences between college life in India and abroad.
Diversity or Familiarity

Abroad: Colleges abroad will offer you greater exposure to a multi-cultural backdrop. You’ll be a part of a campus buzzing with students and professors from  various countries, nationalities and cultures. You’ll learn about various traditions and lifestyles, understand and appreciate the differences, would be able to relate with your international peers as well as realise a connection with your roots. Most alumni of foreign colleges find that the international exposure has made them more sensitive towards other cultures and helped them connect with people easily.

India: Though you’ll not have as much global diversity as a study abroad program will offer you, your classroom may be filled with students pan-India. You will have a familiar landscape and peers with similar cultural and traditional perceptions, making the transition into college life smoother. You’ll readily be able to strike camaraderie with your peers and might find old acquaintances from school as your classmates.

Self-Learner or Teachers’ Guidance
Abroad: Be prepared to dive into a completely different style of learning and academic rigour. A number of colleges abroad develop a holistic curriculum that focuses on continuous learning, interactive teaching, extensive research, self-study, collaborative enterprise, classroom presentation, excursions and exchange programs. Assessment and evaluation tools encompass a broad range of mediums including pop quizzes, project work, essays, seminars, class participation, project work, etc. The curriculum strives for more student participation and initiative where professors relegate to the role of facilitators. Students must take responsibility of their own learning to be at par with the academic demand.

India: The Indian curriculum relies on a teacher-centric lecture based system with exams at the end of each semester.  It’s not a continuous learning method, which could be ideal for students who strive in this learning environment or those who wish to be involved in other commitments after college e.g. CA preparation or work in the family business. Many institutions are incorporating international pedagogical approaches to allow students take greater responsibility of their learning. Presently, given the number of the students enrolled per course, teacher-pupil ratio, availability of resources and infrastructure, educators are trying to seek a balance between the two types of curricula to benefit learners.

Academic flexibility or Professionally Oriented Program
Abroad: Your college journey abroad is quite unlike your experience at an Indian college. You can take greater initiative to design your course based on your learning objectives. At an undergraduate level in the US for example, you can team Anthropology with Music to gain deeper insight into the collective consciousness of an indigenous community or choose an elective unrelated to your major to tap into newer fields of research. You can even change your major provided you meet the department requirements. Additionally, you can double major meaning that you can complete two degrees in two separate academic areas.  You can also major in one area and minor in the other.   Most universities offer students the freedom to explore their academic interests before deciding to specialize.

India: Colleges in India do not provide you with this scope. You have to take stipulated course prescribed by the college with defined program timeline. Though it limits flexibility of pursuing self-designed programs, in the Indian context it renders a structured system. Courses are more subject focused or designed to meet the requirements of getting into specific professions. For instance, if you are pursuing Math, you cannot choose Dance as your elective but Statistics, Physics or related fields of study as your options are pre-determined by the course syllabus. It helps you to specialise in your subject area, and keeps you focused on your professional goals.
Active Campus life or Individual Pursuits
Abroad: If you have a passion for art, music, sports, community service or any domain, college campuses abroad will offer you immense scope to cultivate your interests. Most campuses harbour as many as 80 to 100 clubs of diverse kinds. Be it women in finance, photography, aqua jogging, fencing, archery or robotics, you’ll find your niche in one (or more) of the clubs or organizations. This is one of the exclusive benefits of studying abroad that most alumni vouch for. It is these extra-curricular activities that shape up your personality for the future success. You can begin your own club, or be the president of another. You’ll engage in a myriad of activities that’ll polish your organisational and leadership skills along with blossoming your potential.

India: You’ll have a more academic focused ambience with most programs undertaken by specific departments and centred on subject enhancements. Compared to abroad, you have limited number of clubs and associations. This in a way provides greater freedom to students to pursue their own interests outside of college.
Independence or Comfort of Family
Abroad: You’ll have no help at all, and have to do everything from making your own bed to changing a bulb, from cooking to paying bills. When it comes to handling finances, you’ll learn to become discreet in managing and planning your finances. College life abroad will offer you a wonderful platform to discover your abilities of thriving independently. You’ll be self-sufficient, organised, take independent decisions, which will be quite a shift from being with parents.

India: Your direct educational expenses will be much less. If you are commuting from home, you’ll get the added benefit of saving on food and lodging. You’ll have a constant support system there for you. You may not get the unique experience of taking major decisions but you’ll also not have to go through the challenges of staying alone and far from family.  

When you are considering a choice between colleges abroad or India, keep in mind your priorities, strengths and objectives. Studying abroad will impact you differently from studying in your homeland. Remember, it is up to you on how you want to optimise the opportunities that each would offer you. Analyse your needs, do your homework, speak to your family and friends, and reflect thoroughly; you’ll certainly pick the option that fits best for you!

(This article is written by Grishma Nanavaty, partner and Lead Counsellor

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