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Some Hard Truths About Being An International Indian Student

16/07/2017 10:52 AM IST | Updated 16/07/2017 11:33 AM IST
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When I was heading abroad to study, I consulted many people for tips on how to survive there. The advice I received was certainly helpful, but nothing can prepare you for all the challenges you will face once you are there. Based on my own experiences, here are some tips that will hopefully give you a realistic picture of the kind of situations you may face when studying abroad.

1. The accent barrier – This is an actual problem. You might have a Master's degree in English literature but if you have a strong accent that cannot be easily understood by the locals, then you are likely to be considered stupid. Your writing may be flawless, but the way you pronounce words matters. You could be asked to repeat the same sentence several times, including your name. Just because there are many Indians working or studying there doesn't mean that everyone will be familiar with your name or your accent. There is a high probability that the people you come across have never met an Indian before.

For those with thick accents, please try to be clear with your pronunciation. I'm not asking you to emulate the local dialect, but try to listen carefully and try speaking slowly. Try using words in the local dialect. This way, you can show that you are making an effort to blend in. It doesn't matter whether you are in an English-speaking country or not. If your pronunciation is correct, then your accent will be overlooked. I tested out this theory on a Japanese woman when I met her in Holland, and I had an entire conversation with her in Japanese.

Your writing may be flawless, but the way you pronounce words matters.

Don't expect to be spoon fed – Please remember, you are no longer in India. Nobody will spoon feed you academic or non-academic information. How to get an internship, register with the local police, get a driving license — you need to find out yourself. The study abroad agency that helped you secure admission, may not always have the answers. You'll have to sort everything on your own. You will have to ask your classmates, professors or the international student's office. If you want to be well informed, then start building a network of friends or acquaintances in your campus. In addition, check your university website for verification of any kind.

You are no longer in India. Nobody will spoon feed you academic or non-academic information.

3. Be prepared for racism – For those who think that racism or xenophobia is something that happened in the past, you are wrong. Be prepared to face prejudice from your professors and classmates about your skin colour and nationality. You may be the most knowledgeable person in your class but it is possible that you will be scorned and treated as a dullard by some. Any negative reaction on your part will only fuel their prejudice. So, be indifferent and prove your mettle through academics. You may hear criticism about India, Indians and the Indian government, especially from your professors. Develop a thick skin and choose your battles carefully. Such incidents did not just happen to me, but to several Indians, I interacted with in my university.

Nobody has the time to be your agony aunt. So, for those who are overly sensitive, learn to toughen up.

4. You won't have an agony aunt – Unless you have relatives whom you are living with or are in the same city as you, don't expect to be placated and receive advice all the time. Nobody has the time to be your agony aunt. So, for those who are overly sensitive, learn to toughen up. A good option is to make friends with other international students. Usually, Indians and Chinese students always form their respective groups and stick together. So, the chances of being homesick or feeling out of place are quite low.

5. Indian food is expensive and no you can't get a discount – Usually, most countries have Indian restaurants and stores, but they can be very expensive. So, if you want to eat your local cuisine, you have to empty your pockets. And no, there's no concept of bargaining. Certain stores and restaurants give student discounts, but not all of them. The concept of fixed price is not a myth, but a reality. Please check if a store gives discounts before you ask for it and make a fool of yourself. The store may be Indian, but the rules of that country apply to that store as well. This behaviour will only reinforce the stereotype foreigners have about Indians, so avoid it at all costs.

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