“Studying in India is very different because I never lived in a campus where I also studied. The way we are taught here is very different… but I like it better.”
“The mess, chapatti, biriyani, dosa – onion dosa is the best one!”
So speak foreign students on campus when asked about their experience. Exchange students from abroad are a small but fast-growing minority in IITM’s landscape; in the last two years, the Office of International Relations has been actively promoting IITM as an exchange destination in campuses abroad. Today, almost every student of IITM has had some classes in common with exchange students and interacted with them in academic and non-academic contexts – as many of them testify in the video below, for which credit is due to iPals and IITM’s PR cell.
To celebrate and encourage cultural exchange, IITM celebrated International Day (the second edition of the event) on the 2nd of October at the Students Activity Centre. The day saw the foreign community work hand in hand with the local students to organise the event, thereby reiterating their presence and involvement in the student activities of the campus.
As a prelude, a flash mob – on the same lines as last year’s – was organized in Himalaya lawns. A mix of foreign and Indian students danced to the tunes of popular Bollywood numbers, including the trending ‘lungi dance’.
The day started with the inauguration by the Dean, IAR (The Director joined later, after lunch), This was followed by a classical music and dance presented by Mrs Kalpana Srinivas and group, and later, a patriotic song by Mrs. Usha Tiwari and group. There was also a Bharatanatyam performance and Taala Vrinda – a performance by the non-IIT students of the campus community. Most of the performers of the events were family members of professors or other IIT campus residents.
A particularly interesting event was speed meeting – on the lines of the newly emerging concept of speed dating (which involves a group of men and women coming together, where each person gets a short period to talk to the person in front. The group keeps shuffling till every man has talked to every woman and vice versa. At the end of the event, each participant makes a list of people to whom they would like to give their contact info to. If there is a match, the information is forwarded to both parties). Here, a mixed group of foreign students, professors, students and other IIT campus residents involved themselves in a similar meeting where each person got 3 minutes to talk to every other person. The choice of taking the acquaintance forward was left to the participants.
There were a couple of cultural presentations, where exchange students talked about universities back home, such as TUD and TU Berlin – the latter university, interestingly, sent exchange students to IITM for the first time this year. After lunch came the Japanese performance – a mix of dance by Japanese school kids, karaoke, singing and instruments such as drums, saxophone and guitar. Then came the much-awaited fashion show, where foreign students dressed up in ethnic Indian attire – dhotis and sarees, customised to showcase various festivals across the country, including Pongal, Onam, Dussera among others. Next was a music show by international students, who played a mix of popular English songs along with a few Bollywood songs. This was followed by even more shows, which included a Bharatanatyam performance by Natya Archana, Master V. B Sudish and his troupe, and the Dandiya performance by Mrs. Chitra Jain and her troupe.
Next was a Rock ‘n’ Roll dance workshop by Beatrice and Pierre. It was well-received by participants, who picked up some basic moves and then just ‘went with the flow’, dancing to whatever music was being played. After this, Omkara, which was started by various alumni of Kalakshetra, came on stage, in a performance (the wife of Prof. K Balasubramaniam, Dean ICSR, was a part of the group). The proceedings wound up with the screening of a French movie about student exchange, giving the audience insights into the process.
Apart from the events, the day also saw the SAC play host to a variety of interactive games. One of them, Fruit Ninja, involved the player throwing a card at a half cut watermelon, with the aim of getting the card stuck in it. Another, ‘Blow the balls’ required the player to blow off all the tennis balls from a plate. Another game had yoyos tied to players’ pants on the hind side; the players were then asked to knock out bottles placed on tables by maneuvering the yoyos – a sight that had the players and the audience laughing throughout. Winners of individual games got coupons as prizes, and the players who won all the games won a T-shirt which was specially designed for the day.
No article about International Day would be complete without a mention of the food stalls, where winners of the games could trade in their prize coupons for various dishes. With Spanish tortillas, French crepes, omelets, salads and other delicacies entirely prepared by foreign students, the food was truly international.