A bunch of Australian students are soaking in the Indian cultural and academic students and loving it!
It’s natural that when exchange students from foreign countries come down to India, we show them a great experience. They visit colleges, attend lectures specially organised for them and interact with students and faculty at the respective institutions. Undoubtedly, it is a great learning experience for them, since culturally, India is quite different from other lands.
Exchanging experiences with members of Advitya: (L-R) James (seated with the red headgear, Christopher, Dragana and Kate
What was different for students Dragana Nenadic, Kate Withers, Christopher Stanley andJames Sullivan of Deakin University, Australia, was the unique experience of working with mentally challenged adults at Mumbai-based NGO – Advitya at a two-week stint facilitated by Edulab Educational Exchange Pvt Ltd which is a member of ‘World Youth Student Exchange’, a body endorsed by UNESCO.
After attending several lectures, where they were appalled at the students’ open use of cell phones and chatting during class, these students came to Advitiya. The students were really shocked, since in Australia, they are supposed to maintain silence through the class, so how can students talk when the teacher is? But then, I guess they learn it from the general experience as well. “India is really busy and intense. It’s noisy and there are people everywhere!” says Kate of her experience in the country.
“The academic experience has been great so far, since the lectures were informative and tactically chosen according to the agenda of our tour,” adds James, the law student of the group. The other three are pursuing commerce.
Speaking of their work with the differently abled, the students get pensive for a minute while they think of the non-existent help from the government for them. Even if the abilities of such people remain the same, the fact that their government offers support for the mentally challenged changes the equation. “The major difference is the support and the width. Without funding, it is difficult to run such centres,” offers Chris. James adds that educating the public at large would help. “I remember being in a similar non-understanding situation, but I was in class three at that time. Since then, I’ve been sensitized about the differently-abled, and I feel I understand better,” adds James.
“These people have a great deal of understanding and lots of talent,” says Dragana, “here at Advitiya they engage in activities as well as work on their vocation.” All of this helps in discipline, besides providing an outlet for creative expression.
The experience has created a lot of respect in the students’ minds for the differently-abled. They only wish that other Indians would develop it as well!