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India is a great place to study, not work, say int'l students

Last updated on: December 6, 2011 12:42 IST

India is a great place to study, not work, say int'l students

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Lajwanti DSouza

Here is why international students studying in Indian universities across the country feel so.

Some of the finest b-schools in the world are in the United States and Europe, yet students from there choose to study in India. And it's not only for the politician's hackneyed agenda of "India being culturally rich and traditional" but because the country has unadventurously aroused great global curiosity over the years -- be it as a tourist desintation, the Bollywood upshot or just as an emerging economy.

However, the biting wit is that the interest in India is abound with the 'study' intent only, very few harbour thoughts of staying over and working here. For lots of reasons, India just does not seem right for long-term plans. Explains Isabel Cayuela, a student from Spain who is studying at the Indian School of Business (ISB) Hyderabad. "Although India is an amazing country, it is a difficult place for foreigners who are used to better standards of living. Simple and essential things are a big thing in India."

Let's hear what others have to say about India as a study destination as compared to a working one.


Image: International students at XLRI, Jamshedpur
Photographs: Pagalguy.com

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Mini-world in Indian b-schools

You get all kind of nationalities studying in Indian b-schools -- Americans, Spanish, French, even Pakistanis. Many are here on exchange programmes and chosen India over China in Asia and some European countries too. Paul Ricard studying at the Indian Institute of Ahmedabad (IIM-A) said that he opted for India because it is one of the fastest developing countries in the world. "India is facing a lot of challenges now and I find it fascinating to be here," he said.

For Raphael Steve from France who is studying at Xavier Labour Research Institute (XLRI) Jamshedpur, it was the need to "see something different and to have another perspective on life" that made him come here. As for Isabel, India was more like a comfort zone for her. "I have a strong interest in international business and emerging markets and it is a challenge to immerse myself in an environment quite different from mine."

For others, it was India as a tourist destination that was one of the luring factors. Morten Schmidt Hansen, a student from Copenhagen, who  is with MDI, Gurgaon, says that one of the reasons he came to India is because he wanted to travel to places such as Agra, Delhi and Goa during the weekends, same reasons as his colleague at MDI, Iris Dias. She confessed: "My primary objective was to travel in India besides experiencing its culture."

Houda Quarab, from XLRI also always wanted to visit India but never got the opportunity earlier so decided to do it through studies. Delaloi Maureen, now at XLRI said that she wanted to discover a new country and "India offered her opportunities to travel a lot."


Image: Isabel Cayuela from Spain at ISB, Hyderabad
Photographs: Pagalguy.com

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So how is life different here?

Most differences are small," said Nigor Olivia (France) studying at XLRI. "Here lectures are just an hour and a half, while abroad, it is at least 3 hours and all the classes are in English here," she explained. Sabahuddin Sulaiman from Pakistan who is studying at MDI said that at his university back home (Lahore University of Management Sciences), the teaching is more individual-based, while in India, group approach is given more importance.

A fact agreed upon by Iris Dias from ESCP (Ecole Superieure de Commerce de Paris). "Compared to ESCP, there are a lot of group discussions here and also work on projects and presentations. Besides, in ESCP we have options of going on six months internship, which is not permitted here," she said.

Paul who is a student at HEC Paris (Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales de Paris), said that back in his own college, class participation is not given huge importance in the grading process though students participate a lot since most of the classes are electives, which means subjects of their own choice. "It is similar in IIM-A, the only difference being that class work is graded here," Paul added.

Houda Quarab, from France and currently at XLRI said that much of the group work/projects in India happen in advance while in France, "we do it a night before." Houda added that the English accent spoken in India is also very different, compared to what is heard in the West.


Image: Lahore University of Management Sciences in Pakistan
Photographs: LUMS.com

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Indian classmates?

It is a known fact and corroborated by teaching faculty in b-schools abroad, that Indian students (in international classrooms) are less vocal when it comes to voicing their opinion, when compared to students from the West. They also tend to be less critical of their college and faculty. But international b-school students think otherwise. Isabel says that when needed, Indian students do criticise their school and faculty. "However Indian students tend to follow the opinion created by a small group of opinion leaders unlike in other places. "In ISB, opinions about faculty are highly influenced by alumni from previous years," she said.

And that holds true for other b-schools too.

Speaking about alumni, Paul said that when people graduate, the strongest business schools benefit from a large and powerful alumni network. Morten said that the freedom of speech and liberties given to students is the same here as abroad but since the environment differs, the "activeness" of students differ.

Isabel added however, that Indian students are far more hardworking than their counterparts abroad and that is something she wants to pick-up before leaving for home. A point made by one of the students is that since Indian students are a majority here, they may not have an issue speaking their mind, while abroad it is the reverse so may be, they show traits of lower self-confidence there.


Image: Morten Hansen from Copenhagen at MDI
Photographs: Pagalguy.com
Tags: Isabel , ISB , Paul , Morten , India

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Everybody loves faculty

That faculty mostly live in the campus in India is a point of fascination for many international students. Abroad, most faculty prefer to stay in private residences. Delaloi says that here faculty is more easily available for the students and much 'closer' to the students compared to teachers back home. Sabahuddin said that there is a great amount of interest in teaching here.

"Professors here are amazing in terms of their knowledge and credentials. The 'forthcoming' nature of professors seems like a ricochet within the international student community. Morten said that not only are his professors totally at ease with him but that he was also allowed to change his elective after the introductory class, shows how accommodating they are.

Isabel said that there is not much of a difference in faculty here and back home but that there are far fewer women faculty in India which is anomalous. "In Spain and Europe, it is so usual to see a lady professor but in India it is such a novelty."


Photographs: Rediff Archives

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They love the hostels too

Our  guess is that since PaGaLGuY, spoke to students from some of the top institutes, all said that they 'loved' the hostels. However, when it came to rating them, no one gave a rating of more than 8 out of 10. Isabel who gave the ISB hostel a score of 8 out of 10 said that her hostel has outstanding hostel and facilities. According to Paul, his hostel at IIM-A is similar to the one in HEC. "Both 50 year-old buildings. They looked scary at first but later turned out to be  full of entertainment and history. Since I am in the dorm in the new campus, I am very comfortable."

Sabahuddin said that while hostels in his own college in Lahore and MDI are same, facilities like the night canteens and mess are different. "In Lahore we pay daily but here we have to pay monthly for the food. Daily fruits and lemonade and deserts in the mess are hugely welcome." Goussi Violaine studying at XLRI said that her campus is calm and clean at all times and that is a reason for loving the campus -- she too gave a score of 8.

Raphael Steve, also from XLRI however gave his hostel a 4 out of 10, though he added that he liked the atmosphere in the campus and the sports facilities.


Image: XLRI Jamshedpur campus
Photographs: XLRI Jamshedpur
Tags: XLRI , ISB , HEC , MDI , Raphael Steve

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So if things are so good why not work in India?

A few of them would like to. Mathieu Levenant presently with XLRI stated that if given an opportunity to work here, he will jump at it. Mortem from MDI displayed similar ardour to work here. Paul said he would like to come to India at some future time on a consulting mission but after he graduates, he will start working in New York.

But not all are super-excited about hanging on here. Goussi said she will never be able to adapt to the Indian culture entirely and would like to go back. Raphael Steve said he has a job offer in Europe and would like to go back too, besides he would not be able to stay in India for more than a year. "One does feel home-sick after a while," he explained.

Delaloi is honest to say that while "India can offer great opportunities, she would prefer to work in Europe or Asian countries like Japan or China" since those are the happening places now. For Nigor, it is simple. "Since I am interested in finance, it is better that I am in the world financial places," is her reply. Isabel is the most straight-forward of the lot. She reasoned out. "Although India is an amazing country and offers lots of opportunities, it is a difficult place for foreigners. "Foreigners are used to having higher standards of living. Simple and essential things are a big issue in India so as a foreigner, I would love to live in a Western country."

This explains that while we think that we are a global identity, for the international student community, we are still not fully there. We still do well as a 'day-tripper' destination like so many students explained in the article. Yes, we have some very good b-schools but do they match up on the world stage and if they do, do we have lucrative jobs and a great working environment to offer? It will take a few more years for Indian b-schools to make a true-blue mark on the world scene and students flock to study here.

But of course there are some who just like India for what it is. Said Goussi: "I hope I understand Indian mentality soon. I like the fact that each city is a mess and you can find surprises at corners... but it can be a bit exhausting."


Photographs: Rediff Archives

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