Finally, an association for Delhi University’s foreign students

July 15th, 2008 - 2:13 pm ICT by IANS  

By Azera Rahman
New Delhi, July 15 (IANS) It’s not easy being a foreign student in Delhi University. Alien to the city’s culture and local languages, it can be quite a challenge for them to find accommodation or even proper food. The Foreign Students’ Association, which will look after their welfare, therefore comes as a huge relief to the 2,000 odd foreign students in the varsity.

The association, which is the brainchild of the foreign students living in the campus, has already been formed - though informally. It will become officially functional only in another one month and will be a part of the Delhi University Students Union (DUSU).

Ilyas Noor of Afghanistan, who is a third year undergraduate student in Delhi University and is secretary of the association, said it was after three years of pursuance that the authorities had in February accepted the idea of a body representing foreign students in the university.

“Ever since I came to the university two-and-a-half years back, I had been mooting the idea of a body representing the foreign students here. But it’s only now that the vice chancellor of the university has accepted our proposal and has asked us to be part of the general students body (DUSU),” Noor said.

“I stay at the International Students Hostel (for boys) which is under the university and, therefore, have never had to face problems like finding the right accommodation or food, but those who don’t stay in the hostel do.

“A body which will provide such students with basic information, therefore, is required,” Noor told IANS.

According to him, the association will not only look at the welfare of the foreign students living in the campus but also help in cultural interaction.

“There are approximately 2,000-2,500 foreign students from nearly 42 countries, mostly from Asia and Africa, studying in Delhi University and living in the campus - both north and south campuses. But since there is no formal foreign students body to bring them together, hardly anyone knows one another.

“This association, therefore, besides looking after their welfare, will also be a platform for cultural exchanges among the students,” said Noor, who is a third year commerce student in Ramjas College.

Hailing the initiative, Meneka Bollogama, a Sri Lankan student studying in the Sri Ram College of Commerce, said: “Education is not just confined to the pages of a text book. It means the sharing of knowledge.

“There are so many students from different countries in DU but since we don’t know each other and don’t meet, there is no way that there can be a cultural exchange. This initiative will help clear that block”.

The association’s main focus will, however, be safety issues.

Stray incidents such as the mysterious death of an Indian American student in his room in the university’s north campus in May this year came as a shock to many, especially to foreign students.

“Not many students know each other. Although there is an official department for the foreign students’ welfare in the university, it helps to be connected to a students body which is just a phone call away if needed and can understand all the problems since they have been through similar situations before.

“Incidents such as the death of the Indian American student were shocking. Safety is definitely our topmost priority and we will advise students on which places to put up in,” he said.

Also, since the university has just two hostels for international students, one for boys and the other for girls, both in the north campus, most have to put up either as paying guests or in rented apartments.

“The International Students Hostel (for boys) has just 100 beds. It is undoubtedly a very comfortable and safe place and has students from 35 countries. But it is not enough to cater to the entire foreign crowd on the campus! This will, therefore, be one of the issues that we will take up,” Noor said.

Mary Farrakhan, a Nigerian student, who lives with her friend in rented accommodation, said that she was glad that an association is coming up to look after the foreign students’ welfare issues.

“There have been tines when my friend and I have had problems, for instance, an argument with the landlord, and didn’t know whom to turn to. Now, hopefully we will,” she said.

Members of the association are now waiting for an official announcement by DUSU.

DUSU president Amrita Bahari said: “We are looking forward to the official formation of the Foreign Students’ Association. It will be done at the most in one month’s time.”

(Azera Rahman can be contacted at azera.p@ians.in)

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