After a 30-hour journey from Kolkata, India, a group of students from St. Xavier’s College arrived to campus with bright smiles.
For the past three weeks, these students have called CSB/SJU home. This year marks the program’s second year and provides a Minnesotan cultural experience for those involved. Deemed as a “Global Institute,” the program was originally organized by the Center for Global Education and involves a month-long stay at CSB/SJU. While here, the students participate in several off-campus trips and are scheduled to depart on Nov. 16.
The visiting students participate in daily activities such as riding the Link to and from campuses, attending classes within their majors, attending campus functions, visiting other Minnesotan cities and staying with host families for a weekend.
Despite cultural differences, each student has embraced the opportunity with open arms.
“The major difference for me was the classroom experience because it was very informal by seeing students eat in class or call their professors by their first name,” St. Xavier’s student Devangi Vasa said. “Where I come from and at our university, we have a very strict dress code. When our teachers speak to us, we have to get up, and we address them by Sir or Ma’am.”
One major cultural difference that the students have experienced is the interaction between the male and female students.
“At our college, we aren’t necessarily allowed to hug the opposite sex in public or on our campus because it is a sign of social disrespect or not being polite in public,” St. Xavier’s student Kaunain Rahman said. “For example, you can’t really get ‘cozy’ in the public eye because in our culture there is a definition between the women and males. It is quite unique and different here which is a great change.”
When it comes to learning in their new classes, the students engage with others in a variety of subjects ranging from art, management, political science and sociology. In India, college students tend to focus on one particular subject and there are no minors.
St. Xavier’s student Sneha Kanoda suggested that the amount of students studying at CSB/SJU is quite different from India. There, they are required to attend 75 percent of classes, the more classes attended correlates to a higher grade.
“Our teachers provide us with the tools we need to study on our own and they encourage us to continuously research our topics in addition to gaining independence and growing more as an individual,” Kanoda said.
At CSB/SJU, students tend to engage in class and with teachers as opposed to a lecture hall. In India, classes are lecture-based. They suggested, however, that teachers provide the tools for students to gain knowledge outside of the classroom to gain a “worldly perspective.”
Each student from St. Xavier’s College stayed with host families in the surrounding cities of Minneapolis this past weekend; this correlates the belief of the importance of family in the Indian culture. St. Xavier’s student George Augustine pointed out how he greatly enjoyed his homestay in Eden Valley.
“For us, it is our core and most valued decisions that are shared amongst our immediate family, especially our parents because they have watched us grow,” Rahman said.
When one begins to make money in India, it is a sign of respect to contribute to family expenses. The American family structure was also something that the St. Xavier students felt was unique and special.
Each student agreed that American families are larger and that family dinners are an experience of unique bonding, an aspect they greatly enjoyed.
The students have taken part in new experiences, ones that are uniquely American, such as carving their first pumpkin. The students also enjoy the American foods they have sampled including bacon and cheeseburgers. This is a stark contrast from the Indian culture in which most of the country holds a vegetarian diet and the Cow is considered sacred.
The students mentioned how much he or she has appreciated and enjoyed the kindness of the CSB/SJU community. Throughout their stay, they have not only learned and adapted to a new culture but have enjoyed the memories they have made.