After completing her BTech in biotechnology from VIT, Vellore, Samantha Sundaresan realised she wanted more from her academic life. She has since then globe-trotted to get the exposure she is proud of today. She went on to do her master’s in biological recognition from Jacobs University, Bremen, Germany, and worked as a research associate in Syracuse, New York in SUNY Upstate Medical University. She is currently pursuing an MBA in healthcare management at the International Technological University, California.
Having studied all over the world, I’d say education and individual attention is more focused and available outside India. In India, there seem to be too many students in one class, a laid-back attitude and students also seem to get away with cheating, copying and misbehaving. Rules are stricter abroad.
For example, plagiarism is taken very seriously here and software is available to measure the level of plagiarism. This awareness is not widespread in India. The exposure to practical training was also very little in India, as I struggled in Bremen on my first day with a simple experiment. I struggled and survived because I left my comfort zone — we are alone and have to prove ourselves in a foreign land.
One of the main reasons students move out of the home country is to gain exposure, become independent and progress in life. Today, I can say I’ve succeeded at that because I left India.
The idea of working smartly and understanding the subject doesn’t exist back home. Abroad, right from kindergarten, students are taught to apply what they learn. There is encouragement for original work, rather than copying or rote learning. Students abroad tend to understand the value of thinking and working well individually, as well as in teams. Thus they have a well-rounded academic life and quality teachers to lead that culture.
In India, I feel that a lot of time is wasted in gossiping but abroad, students are more focused and hardworking. The Western culture ensures this — teach kids the right way to learn and catch them when they are young!
Another example is, for undergraduation in science, you face live projects and have to work under PhD students. It helps you learn the rules of the programme, carry out your work independently, plan experiments, how to behave with labmates and professors, how to work and understand the importance of publishing papers, how to talk and strike a balance. This doesn’t happen in India. Equality between the sexes is also a great advantage to studying abroad.
Students and researchers here are encouraged with scholarships and stipends, which rarely happens in India. And if it does, takes its own sweet time. The student-professor relationships abroad, I’ve noticed, are more interactive and open. There are certainly perks to studying abroad, even if it is at a higher cost.
That said, my best experience was at Vellore in terms of the friendliness of people, the close bonds that you develop with your roommates, hostel-mates, professors, etc. I feel this solid upbringing and culture is why many Indians succeed and I will come back home soon. Nothing matches the richness of our culture. After gaining the wealth of knowledge and exposure from here, I aim to open an orphanage in India and educate women and the downtrodden about the value of education.