A CHANCE VISIT TO A CLASSICAL DANCE CONCERT OR THE PLAIN CURIOSITY TO LEARN A UNIQUE LANGUAGE IS ONE OF THE MANY THINGS THAT PROMPTS AN INTERNATIONAL STUDENT TO OPT FOR INDIAN SHORES.
India - a land that boasts of a rich and diverse cultural heritage along with a vibrant economy - has been an education hotspot with international students for quite sometime. A recent survey ranked India as one of the top five nations preferred by students in the US as a key educational destination. With more than 17,000 colleges, 400 universities, 13 institutes of national importance and various other vocational institutes, the network of higher education system in India is one of the largest in the world. Combined with the fast integrating world economy and corresponding rise of student mobility, India has become an attractive study abroad option for students around the world.
In an era of globalisation, exchange of cultures between nations is commonplace and this is where India scores as a one-stop cultural hub. It is fast becoming a major economic superpower and hence alongwith getting quality education at a low cost and plenty of available job opportunities, students are attracted to the subcontinent. Financial aids and scholarships too are available in plenty for international students. Apart from this, India is home to unique traditional courses like Ayurveda, Sanskrit, Yoga and Hindi, which enthuse many international students.
A popular example is Nalanda, which welcomes students from all over the world to learn Indian classical dance forms like Bharat Natyam, Odissi,
Kathak and Mohiniattam. “We preserve the traditional classical dance styles in their formal purity by imparting training through the traditional ‘guru-shishya parampara’ method and that is what attracts students from abroad,” says Kanak Rele, director, Nalanda Dance Research Centre- the only dance institute affiliated to the Mumbai University.
Some students leave behind careers and opportunities in their own countries to follow their passion and learn something that is totally foreign to them. Some others come all the way from Mauritius and Germany for the love of dance and the Indian art forms.
For Keertee Naojee, a student from Mauritius, it is the strange yet graceful movements and postures of Mohiniattam that has drawn her to India. “I have always dreamt of being a professional classical dancer. The subtle communication of an emotion through a gesture or look or the unique ways in which a Carnatic raga combines with complex rhythms in Indian classical dance forms is beyond comparison. It has been quite a journey in these three years that I have been studying here. Learning to do things the Indian way gives me great pleasure and a little effort has enabled me in making some friends for life.”
Some classical dance forms that are very popular amongst international students are Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Mohiniattam and Kathak. With various Indian institutions solely dedicating themselves to offering degree, diploma as well as Masters courses in these dance forms, the growing number of students coming from abroad to take up such courses is only increasing by the day.
Whatever the reasons, students from far-flung countries such as France and Italy have not let language and other cultural barriers deter them from pursuing their passion. Traditional Indian languages like Sanskrit, Urdu and Marathi also rank high in preference as courses of interest amongst international students. Gopeeka Narain is a student from Canada who is doing her graduation in the Marathi language from the University of Pune. She quips, “My parents belonged to India but I was born and brought up in Canada. I always had a special liking for Indian regional languages, especially Marathi since both my parents are Maharashtrians. Hence, I decided to pursue my graduation in this language and the obvious choice of destination was India. I do not have any relatives here but I feel at home in Pune.”
Surprises are always waiting as one enters any new place, especially if it is a completely new country with a different set of cultures and traditions. One may also take time adjusting to the new environment. Remember, it is normal to feel excited, confused and even overwhelmed, all at the same time. But with a little friendly approach and some patience, India’s cosmopolitan approach and a sound educational system can prove to be the perfect learning grounds for its exotic art forms and culture. Foreign students certainly seem to agree.