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Written by: Jennifer Kumar, Cultural Adjustment Coach
Friday, November 12, 2010

The Authentic Journey of Brijesh and Deepa: Life Full Circle Between India and USA - Part 3 of 3: College Culture in India


The Authentic Journey of Brijesh and Deepa: Life Full Circle Between India and USA
Part 3 of 3: College Culture in India
Both of you work in a college. Can you share any observations you have seen in the current student population? Are there any different outlooks had by this current generation of college-going kids as compared to when you were studying?
Deepa shares:
College life has changed in so many ways. I got a mobile for myself when I started working soon after my Bachelors. Even teens nowadays carry cell phones and I really have to appreciate their connectivity. They always want to be connected. It’s like silence would kill them. They are also not practical most of the time. They are sure and focused about the professional goals but when it comes to life, they aren’t ready to take even small failures.
Another observation, girls and boys don’t have to sit in two different rows in the classroom anymore. So that’s a plus, but girls still do have restrictions to get back to their hostels before 8:00pm.
Deepa, can you explain more about the ‘small failures’. Are these failures dealing with academics, professional, personal, relationship-wise or something else? How is it noticed they cannot handle failures? What do you think causes this and what could be some remedies for it?
Deepa shares:
Failures include everything: personal, academics, relationships. They are so protected at home and when they are on their own in college they do not know how to use their freedom wisely and feel lonely. I believe they should make good friends who are ready to listen to them and guide them.
Deepa, you mentioned girls having to be back to their hostels (dorms) by 8pm. Can you explain some benefits and disadvantages to this rule? Also, if the hostel did not have such a rule for girls would their parents allow them to stay there? Do boys staying in the hostel have any such rules?
Deepa shares:
Yes, I totally agree that the 8pm rule could avoid a lot of issues. It could even stain the institute’s reputation and it’s always better to be safe by imposing restrictions. Even parents are relaxed at home. But once you restrict you also tend to give way for rebels. Boys need to report by 9:30pm to their dorms.

What are some of the aspects of college life that are the same or different in US and India?
Deepa shares:
VIT has two big events happening every year, Gravitas (technical) and Riviera (social) inviting students from all over India and in addition to that we have events being organized in every department almost every week, so it’s more emphasis on collaboration now.
With growing emphasis on collaboration, does VIT have any exchange programs with other colleges in India or any [twinning] programs with colleges abroad? Do any foreigners stay, study or teach for long or short periods at VIT?
Deepa/Brijesh shares:
VIT has an International Relations (IR) office and they do lot of student exchanges. In my graduate class there is a girl from France. Lot of students from VIT do their final year project abroad in US and European countries fully paid by VIT. There are over 1000 Chinese students studying here for various undergraduate courses. There is in fact an “international mess” in the hostel to cater the needs of these foreign students. VIT is going to start a twinning program offering MSc in Manufacturing Engineering in collaboration with State University of New York.
Are outsiders to the campus community allowed to attend these events or other college events? In US many colleges allow the larger community (general citizens, non-college going students, staff, etc.) to attend cultural programs, sporting events, stage plays and other events. Is this possible in your college in India? Is it possible in any colleges in India?
Deepa/Brijesh shares:
As Deepa mentioned, all the major events students from all over India participates. There is no restriction that I know of for outsiders during such events. I think this is the case with most of the colleges in India

What's the library like in your college? Do Indian students access the library in the same way as American students?
Deepa shares:
The concept of library is slowly dwindling, they Google most of stuff. Also, we give them notes/ slides here and since I teach II yr B-Tech students who are still fresh from school, they come to college to enjoy and are still used to spoon feeding! Also, these millennial students are very impatient; they want information in their fingertips. Having said that we have a very good library on par with most of the US universities.

Spoon-feeding is an interesting viewpoint, Deepa. Myself, having had written exams in India, I realized many such tests are also a kind of spoon-feeding especially as compared to how tests are given in US. Recently, on his facebook page, Brijesh talked about the difficulties in writing a ‘question paper’ (test paper). Brijesh, would you mind sharing your challenges in writing the question paper? How was yours different than the typical ones? How did the students react or respond to it?
Brijesh shares:
Students especially those doing their under graduation, majority of them can only answer direct questions. If you just change the questions slightly they cannot answer that at all. I don’t blame the students since this is the system they are coming from. But I see an appreciable change in my graduate class. They are receptive to questions that make them think and it encourages me as a faculty to make question papers that can really test their practical knowledge.

End Part 1 of 3. Thank you for sharing, Deepa and Brijesh.
Part 1: Lessons on Maintaining Identity Away From One’s Native Culture and Country
Part 2: Process of Moving Back and Re-Integration into ‘A More Familiar Place’
Part 3:College Culture in India

The previous interview in this series: 
The Authentic Journey of Sanjay and Julie (Part 1 of 3) - Two People Living Their Best Life Possible Above and Beyond Culture and Appearances 
The Authentic Journey of Sanjay and Julie: The Languages of Love (Part 2 of 3) 
The Authentic Journey of Sanjay and Julie: Yes, UK and USA are Different Countries! (Part 3 of 3)

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About Jennifer Kumar creator of this interview series. Jennifer is a cross-cultural coach helping people figure out how to feel comfortable in their new surroundings by getting to know you and helping you create long-lasting solutions that will help you weather life changes, cultural change, and more!

Do you relate to any of these expat stories? Maybe you're an international student, expat wife, in a cross-cultural relationship, considering an interfaith marriage, a 'third culture kid' (TCK), or someone finding it challenging to adjust to a new culture, lifestyle or country. Would you like some help to sort all that out? I am a cross-cultural coach and mentor, contact me for details or see more details about what I do here.



synopsis: synopsis: College culture for students and staff have changed in India since Deepa and Brijesh left and returned to India over the past 10 years. What are some of the changes and current conditions they have noticed working as professors in Vellore Institute of Technology in South India (Tamil Nadu)? 



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