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By Devina Karnik

The city of Pune, also referred to as ‘Oxford of the East’ has been attracting students from all over because of the quality of education and unique culture. The second largest city in the state of Maharashtra is home to people from diverse backgrounds.

Over the years, Pune has grown tremendously in terms of infrastructure. With emerging hangout places, Pune is gaining popularity amongst the youth. Many people from foreign countries make their way to Pune. Colleges in Pune have been providing education to foreign students over many years and still continue to do so. But, are we sure that these students, far away from their homes are being treated equally? Are they receiving good facilities? Are they accepted by peers? Do they receive help when needed? To understand what the reality is, I spoke to some of students from other countries studying in Pune, and this is what they had to say; “My friends were studying in Pune, and I heard good reviews about the education over here so I decided to apply here. Moreover, I wanted to study English and I couldn’t think of a better place to study. My experience till now has been very good with the people over here. I was always helped by people on the streets whenever I lost my way or needed to know the direction to any particular destination. I also have very good relations with my college mates and teachers. They are ever ready to help me. However, a friend of mine is sometimes stared upon because her hair is lighter in colour. She really feels uncomfortable when people do that. But overall, we’ve had a good experience living in this city and we also got a chance to celebrate festivals like Diwali and Holi which made us feel a part of the culture and tradition. We hope that our college organises some trips to various places in India. It’ll help us know more about the country”, says a student from Turkmenistan.

A student from Nigeria had his own share of good and bad experiences. “I have had many good moments with my college friends. They surprised me on my birthday and really make me feel a part of their group. But, when I’m outside college for example at a super market or a store, I’ve experienced instances where women have pulled their little children towards them and hold on to them firmly incase they were standing next to me and also look at me with disgust. It really makes me feel bad and unwanted in this place. There should be a way to knock down barriers based on languages, culture and colour. The ignorant ones must be made aware that we are all one.”

Punekar News's photo.Punekar News's photo.A student from Afghanistan had observed the way things work in the system over here and this is what he had to say,” I’ve learned a lot of things in Pune, especially how to live without your family but not far from your family because most of my friends in college treat me as a part of their family. I was always interested in learning Hindi and when I got here I watched many Bollywood movies. I was always helped and was treated with respect from the people over here. The only negative thing that I’ve noticed about this place is that people try to get their work done by using unfair means and taking the ‘easier’ way out and not waiting patiently and expect us to do the same. I consider this unlawful and a sin. If everyone works hard and things are worked out in a punctual and ethical manner, Pune will be the best place to study and live in.”

Punekar News's photo.A student from Korea faced trouble in her admission process. She summed up her experience as, “Although I have met really wonderful people in college, I’ve had some really bad experiences during the admission process. I was told to visit the office every other day and my work would still remain incomplete. Sometimes, the office staff would just ignore me and I had to wait for very long to get my admission process completed. I really hope that the admission process for us is improved.”

So, as we can note from these experiences, there are clearly certain aspects which we need to work and improve on so that we make Pune a better city to live in. Communicating and working with people from various countries will also liberate our minds and we can embrace another culture. We should all try our level best to make our friends from other countries feel a part of our society and make them feel that coming to Pune was the best decision they ever made.

And according to the ancient saying, ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ (Guest is equivalent to God), it is our duty to live up to this age old saying and preserve its significance.

(Devina Karnik is a student of Fergusson College, Pune)

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