A shared experience moulds Indian and US students

November 18th, 2011 - 10:39 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Nov 18 (IANS) For Singmila Shimrah, a Naga from Ukhrul in Manipur, studying in the US is a “dream come true” and for Sheena Hall, an African-American, her sojourn in India was a “cultural shock” to begin with.

Yet both swear by their respective experiences in the other’s homeland and how it has helped them see things from a new perspective.

“Shimrah and Hall shared their experiences pf studying in the US and India respectively with foreign media at an event here to mark the International Education Week to highlight the importance of international exchange programmes to promote mutual understanding.”

For Shimrah, a Fulbright student from India working on her master’s degree in international relations at George Mason University’s school of conflict analysis and resolution, it is a dream come true not only for her, but for her parents and her country.

“.my mom, she never got to go to school because she had to drop out to take care of her younger siblings. And my dad, he studied only till tenth standard. He dreamed to study, but he could never make it,” she said at an interaction with foreign media here.

“And I am here fulfilling my dreams, my parents’ dreams, my region and my country’s dream.”

Shimrah, who has for almost eight years worked with women, with street and working children and with the youth in the conflict-torn area hopes to “be a peace builder and a voice of the voiceless and be a part in bringing change,” when she returns back home.

“What I love most about America,” she said, “is they see me for who I am, not because of my background, not because of my parents, not because of the life that I have lived. They see my potential.”

Sheena Hall, a Gilman scholar, who spent five months in India studying Indian politics and culture in Hyderabad and also learning a little bit of Hindi language, said “when I first got there, it was more of a culture shock.”

“I didn’t really know how to handle certain situations. So I think that India was a big growth part in my life,” she said.

“It helped me grow, and it helped me learn how to handle stressful situations and really how to put myself out there in anything that I do. So that was a great experience,” said Hall who is currently studying politics and Arabic language at Howard University here.

If Shimrah was surprised by the individualism when she came to America, Hall “was surprised by the community base, how everyone was kinder” when she went to India.

“Another thing I was surprised by was the misconceptions that Indians had when I was India of us Americans. And also the fact that a lot of people - they didn’t know much about African Americans in India” she said.

“And I was also happy that I could share with them what it was like to be African American in America and that they do exist and kind of give them the view of equality that I feel when I’m in America.”

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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