Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Indian students in Cambridge

March 9th, 2010 · 1 Comment

I had the chance to spend a weekend interviewing international students at Cambridge University because I have a friend from Argentina that is doing a masters program there. I attended an Erasmus dinner and an Indian student gathering at an Indian restaurant. 

It was great that I  had just finished reading Indian Students in Britain (1963) by Dr. A.K. Singh. The author explains that it was only in the last third of the nineteenth centry that modernising Indians began to look overseas for university studies. Before then, “Oxford and Cambridge were so poor that they did not appeal to the liberal, humane minds of the great Indian and birtish-Indian reformeres of the first half of the century”. It was only after the opening of its examinations to Indian cadidates for the Indian Civil Service in the 1870s that Indignas began in large numers to go overseas for advanced studies. At the time, it was “the thing” for the Indian elite, even if Indian already had three universities of its own and a number of colleges. The students were sons of wealthy and distinguished princes, lawyers, landowneres, and sometimes proteges of Maharajahs. After completing their studies, many of them went back and got very much involved with leftist Indian nationalism.

This is not a new phenomenon and not only applies to India.Many of  those famous leaders of independence in the process of decolonization had attended Oxbridge and Ivy League institutions in America. In India, those who were ‘England-returned’ possesed the status-symbol number one in society.

Two things made these interviews important. First, to verify that in fact, the meaning of being educated in the West has not changed for Indian students. Most of them expressed how, even with very good universities back home, the value of an English or American degree is still symbolically higher. Second, it was particularly interesting to see Indian students that attend Cambridge at an Indian restaurant because it made me think of the interaction between the local Indian community that has been born here and these students. I suppose that in England there are many instances that give room for interaction between a local community that interacts with people from their nation of origin such as the Indian community with Indian tourists. Contrary to what I would think, after observing the way the restaurant staff treated the students, it didn’t seem like it matter that they were Indian, but would treat them the same as many other clearly non-Indian customers in the restaurant. However, these third year students had been friends since the first year at Cambridge and  they themselves explained that they became a group because they were all Indians. Perhaps it is the caste system, or in England, class, that puts these two groups in such a distance. Perhaps this is an isolated case and in other universities the Indian students have a good relationship with the  staff at the local Indian restaurant. i guess further research would be needed.

Other than these observations, I also got very interesting insights to what it is like being a student at Cambridge and the impressions of ‘Englishness’ that these students have, as you will see in the final research.

Hours: 6

Tags: Azul · Uncategorized

S’alright I Guess: The OK-ish music of Fionn Regan

March 9th, 2010 · 2 Comments

In the beginning, before WWI…there was Fionn Regan. My flatmates and I went to see Fionn Regan at the Norwich Arts Centre on February 25. The crowd, as my flatmate noted, was made up of mostly “artsy 20-somethings.” Regan has released two albums and five EPs. Unfamiliar with Regan ahead of time, I found it hard to distinguish the lyrics of his indie folk songs—especially with his Irish accent. The gig opened with the up and coming band Danny and the Champions of the World, who also acted as backup band for Regan later on. All the members of the Champions wore plaid shirts and were vaguely reminiscent of New York hipsters. My favorite by far was the drummer, who wore black thick rimmed glasses. Despite their lack of fan base in the audience, the crowd took to the band immediately. Their upbeat songs and catchy lyrics were easy for us to pick up. The addition of acoustic pieces along with these faster songs kept us all engaged. The Champions successfully built up the excitement for the main act: Fionn Regan.

When Regan finally took the stage, I have to say I was a little surprised. Also decked out in plaid, Regan wore a collarless shirt with a silver beaded necklace. He donned  an old-school mushroom hair style and kept his mouth right on the microphone—adding to my inability to distinguish his words. However, his fans in the audience had no difficultly singing along—except my flatmate who apparently doesn’t sing at gigs. The crowd cheer at every one of Regan’s lyrics. And as one of his final songs, his best known single from 2006, Regan turned the mic off and let the crowd fill in  the chorus, “Be good or be gone.” I have to admit, this last song did move me a little. I always enjoy being part of the crowd’s energy.

Overall, I wouldn’t say that I am a converted Fionn Regan fan, but Regan is just another example of the eclectic music scene in Norwich!

Hours: 2.5

Total Hours: 8

Tags: Megan