Saturday, January 29, 2011

University or primary school?

I began classes at my Indian university yesterday. Actually it was my third attempt at starting. The first time was on the 4th of January and I was told classes would not start for another three weeks and to come back on the 27th. The second time, on the 27th, I was told to “come back tomorrow, we are not ready yet” and on the third try, classes actually began.
After only two days attending university in India I can confidently say that university life here is vastly different from that of Australia. I feel like I am in a time warp and have travelled back to primary school in the 1980’s. Unlike Australian university, we stand to greet our teacher who is called ‘Mam’ or ‘Sir’ and raise our hand if we wish to speak and then stand to deliver our point. As students we are passive and silent and don’t speak unless spoken to. The teaching is rote in style and as students we copy the dictations of the teacher and are quizzed on our memory of dates, theorists and definitions. Regurgitation of facts seems to take precedence over any actual understanding or practical application of the knowledge itself. Upon being given my first assignment which is to be submitted in pen or pencil, I questioned the lecturer on the required length. Her response to this was “Write as much or as little as you like depending on what grade you aspire to.”                                                                         I replied by asking her what the preferred referencing style was and ‘Mam’ responded with “referencing? We do not reference our writing. Just write the person’s name you are referring to should you wish to refer to anyone.”
Similar to an Australian primary school, the students walk around the campus hand in hand but rarely will you see this contact between a male and female student. Men hold hands and show affection with men as do women with women. High fiving each other in class when a correct answer is given is also common. India is quite a conservative country and just as the dorm rooms are separated into male and female areas so too are the classrooms.
At the end of my first day I was approached by a beautiful young Indian girl dressed in westernised tight jeans and a hot pink jacket with an unusually fashionable handbag. Her only give away was impractical strappy high heels worn over thick bright stripy socks. The girl thrust her hand in my face and told me her name “I am (let’s call her Tammy) the most famous and popular girl on campus. You and I will be best friends. You have much to benefit from hanging out with me but I don’t have much to gain from you. I will help you anyway” and with that she trotted away. I felt like I had just stepped on set of a Hollywood teen flick and could only laugh as the girl walked off. Needless to say Tammy tracked me down the following day staying true to her word and kissing me like a long lost best friend and leading me around campus filling me in on the ‘ins and out’ of how she came to be so popular and famous on campus. I must admit the usual level of staring I receive increased from intense to extreme when I was walking with my ‘popular pal’ but I can’t shake the feeling that she has an ulterior motive for me.

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