International Students' Day: Is Bengaluru their second home?

International Students' Day: Is Bengaluru their second home?

In recent times, there's been much hue and cry with the change in the visa policy by the US government for Indian Students and IT professionals. But for many other international students, India is their Education hub.

Bengaluru's cosmopolitan culture and the IT tag have attracted many international students to the city. Many seem to believe that when compared to other cities, Bengaluru is better in terms of safety, diversity, hospitality, and flexibility of locals in accommodating them.

Mohammad Kazim Karimi from Afghanistan believes that international students enjoy the same kind of freedom here as they do in their native country, and calls India his "second home''. Echoing the same thought, Meena Gul Ghias, who is also from Afghanistan, a B.A student from Bishop Cotton College, says, ''I never felt like I am a foreigner. My classmates, my professors, all of them made me feel at home here''.

But not all of them enjoy the same hospitality. Bibi Mehreen Mandary, from Mauritius, says, "On many occasions, I felt unsafe here but still I believe that there is a lot to do for safety of not only foreigners but also Indians".

Bernard Ochieng from Kenya is an intern at TCS through the AISEC program for international students who wish to work here. AIESEC is an organisation which connects international students and professionals from 126 countries with the vision of peace and fulfilment of humankind potential. Though he finds locals here friendly and approachable, he has also been stereotyped by some. He says: "The fact that they call you Nigerian means you deal in drugs, are violent, or participate in illegal activities, and it is difficult to change the mindset among locals".

In terms of harassment cases in Bengaluru and other cities, few students are of the opinion that they have to be on guard throughout to make sure they don't attract unnecessary attention. Victor, a Nigerian student from St. Joseph's College, says the locals' attitude towards international students is indifferent and they look down at them.

Emmanuel Kiprono Ngeno from Kenya, who is pursuing his BA-LL.B at the University of Mysore, has faced harassment and mental torture here. He says that people have insulted him and used vulgar language, but he "overcame it".

In their many experiences of indifference, international students also find normalcy during some friendly encounters with locals, in expatriate parties and events that give them a neutral ground to blend in and network.

When asked about safety in the city, many were optimistic in their responses, and believe that a few bad experiences don't necessarily make Bengaluru an inhospitable place. In fact, Bengaluru's weather, cultural and ethnic diversity, and the tag of Silicon Valley of India has made it a chosen destination for pursuing higher education.

In Karnataka alone, there are about 1300 international students who are here on scholarships awarded by the government of India. India's willingness to host international students is based on the friendly relationship that the country strives to achieve with other countries in the global arena. P. Venugopal, Indian Council For Cultural Relations (ICCR) regional director, says that the cases of harassment towards international students are mainly "because of lack of awareness among the locals about them".

Some students were also reluctant to focus on a few bad experiences, which they attribute to cultural differences and indifferent attitudes by a handful. The students firmly believe that for a better experience for everyone involved, both sides should learn to co-exist in mutual harmony and respect, without any preconceived notion about any community.

Travelling/Commuting
Language barriers
Auto drivers take advantage of international students
Traffic problems

Positives about Bengaluru
Weather
Diverse cultures
Food, Masala Dosa
Good network of international students

Popular hangout places
Malls
Commercial Street
MG road

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