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

Visit to INTO

February 26th, 2010 · No Comments

To continue my research on the experiences of international students in East Anglia, I decided to visit INTO, that modern building near the Medical Center where I had never been inside.  I had always wondered why that building looked much modern than the rest of the University and who lived there. 

It is no wonder that a project like INTO is developing in places like the United Kingdom and the United States, only the two top destinations of international students. Many times, international students find that they are not entirely ready to access university right out of high school, not only because they might not be completely fluent in English but also because their education system might be very different to the ones in the UK and the US. This is why INTO offers international students intensive preparation for undergraduate and postgraduate study. The programme provides a whole year of extra English language teaching, academic preparation and cultural education for a university degree and is directed to students who have completed their secondary education in their own country. At the moment, there are twelve universities that offer the INTO program. It began in UEA and is currently being expanded to other universities in the UK and US (currently University of South Florida and Oregon State University have it).

The INTO center at UEA covers 1.3 acres and has teaching and accomodation facilities for 600 students. Furthermore, it provides 24/7 student support. I must say that my visit left me very impressed. The building has several common rooms that are fully equiped: from a ping pong table to a plasma TV. It also has a very stylish cafeteria and a resource center of its own, apart from the access that the students already have to the UEA library and the rest of the facilities.

I had the chance to interview some “INTO students” and realized that the project is a great idea it works as a bridge in the life of the international student: from their home country to pursuing a university degree because ee in a new one. The building at UEA makes it even more effective in that the students feel very contained and among people who are going through the same experience as them.

Hours: 4

Tags: Azul

Visit to City College Norwich

February 13th, 2010 · 1 Comment

My research is about the experiences of international students when studying in England. I am interested not only in hearing these experiences but also visiting the universities and places where these students spend their time. That is why, a few weeks ago, I arranged a meeting with Carolyn Fitzgerald, the International Student Adviser for City College Norwich. I wanted to ask her basic questions that an international student might have and at the same time have a chance to visit the College.

There are many things that I learnt while reading the CCN website. Firstly, I realized that the word ‘college’ does not have the same meaning in the UK than in America. ‘College’ in the UK constitutes the last two years of schooling, that is, high-school in America. At the same time, institutions such as Oxford and Cambridge University have ‘colleges’, which are constituent schools within the University. At first I panicked, thinking that I had chosen a place that would not help me with my research on international students pursuing an exchange the Higher Education system. Then, I realized that CCN in fact has both ‘Skill Academies’ (Financial Services, Manufacturing, Hospitality, Retail and Creative and Cultural) and Higher Education and foundation courses. Furtheremore, it has a significant number of international students.

City College Norwich is located on Ipswich Road, not far from the city centre. I arrived earlier than the time I was meeting Carolyn because I wanted to wander around the place for a while. The first thing that I could see is how different CCN is from UEA. I was surprised because the campus is much bigger than what I thought. There are many classrooms and the halls were filled with students. I definitely liked visiting CCN because it has a much more different feel than UEA, the same way UEA is very different to Cambridge University, as you will read about on my next post.

The meeting with Carolyn helped me enourmously. I feel most grateful that she gave me some of her time, especially when I am not even a student at CCN. She was very bussy that day. International students stop by her office constantly to ask for her advice on how to cope with student life, visa issues or financial matters, like a student from Ethiopia (I will keep his anonimity), who had a meeting with her right before me, and with who I started talking. Like most of the approximately fifty international students of CCN, this student had family, specifically his father, living in Norwich. This student chose to study at CCN, being much more affordable than UEA. After obtaining a two-year carer worker diploma, he is now pursuing a foundation degree on health studies. The best part is that my informat invited me to events where I will be able to interview other students from Ethiopia, Cambodia, Palestine, China and the Phillipines. Some are currently seeking refuge in England and are sent to Norwich and others from India and Sri Lank are recruited through an agent.

Further information on the experiences of international students and some other information that Carolyn provided me will be on the paper. For the meantime, I wanted to share a glimpse of what other educational institutions in England are like.

Hours: 4

Tags: Azul

Scouting in the U.K. Part Two

January 29th, 2010 · 2 Comments

This evening I attended my second Explorer Scout Meeting.   I was driven to the last meeting so this was the first time that I had to find the location on my own. Utilizing Google Maps and my Norwich A to Z to their fullest I calculated that it would actually be faster for me to walk to the meeting instead of taking a 21 or 22 bus (23 minutes vs. 29 minutes).  This seemed like a great idea until it started, snowing, raining, sleeting etc.  Nevertheless I bundled up, braved the elements and trudged my way over towards Bowthorpe Road hoping for the best.

Upon arrival (5 minutes early!) I greeted the troop leader, Lesley, and the scouts that I had met at the previous meeting.  Glad to be inside I shed a few layers and prepared for the opening ceremony.  When I was home over winter break I decided to bring my scout shirt back with me to wear at meetings/other events.  The scouts found it very interesting and we spent a considerable amount of time discussing the similarities and differences between my uniform and theirs.

After witnessing a flag ceremony I was informed that the scouts would be working on making/decorating troop t-shirts at the meeting.  My primary job consisted of cutting out cardboard squares for the scouts to mount their completed t-shirts on.  This was so the paint they were using to decorate them would dry easier.  This task took me longer than I expected  since my pocketknife was getting a little dull.

As the scouts were decorating their t-shirts I chatted with them about various subjects.  Two weeks ago the scouts attended Wintercamp at Gilwell Park, just outside of London.  Since I plan on visiting Gilwell within the next few weeks I asked the scouts about their winter camp experience and about the park itself.

One scout was decorating his t-shirt in the colors of Norwich FC because he is a big fan.  When I informed him that I was attending the Norwich vs. Hartlepool match tomorrow he was quite jealous.

We also spent a lot of time talking about education in the U.K. since a few of these scouts are preparing to take their A-Levels.  They asked me what I was studying at UEA and if I was enjoying my time in England.  Many of the scouts had very different academic interests but all seemed pretty sure of what they wanted to do as a career.  I found this interesting.  When I was 16 or 17 I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to major in at College, let alone know what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.  Even now I am unsure/change my mind from time to time.  Since many of the students that I have met at UEA seem to have their future planned out as well  I wonder whether it is simply a cultural phenomenon that American students are generally not as decisive  at an early age as English students when it comes to careers.  Maybe it was just that I, and many of my friends, knew that we wanted to attend liberal arts colleges but I think I am on to something here.

After cleaning up all the supplies I witnessed an awards ceremony and we concluded the meeting.  I was given a “Programme of Events” for the rest of the spring so now I know what the scouts will be working on from meeting to meeting.  After saying goodbye to everyone I put back on my layers and made my way back out into the cold.  Having found my way there I knew my way back comfortably and walked at a brisk Kelley pace, returning to the village in just under 20 minutes.

Although I hurried back to the village because of the cold I realized on my walk back that I would really like to explore more of Norwich, especially the parts outside of the city centre.  As I spent more and more time at Dickinson I began to walk around and explore  Carlisle a little bit and actually stumbled upon some pretty cool things.  I’m sure Norwich will have similar if not greater surprises waiting for me. Once the weather warms up this will be my adventure.

Volunteer Hours: 2.5

Total: 5.5

Tags: Henry

Education in the UK and the US

September 9th, 2009 · 5 Comments

Last night I went to hear the conductor, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, speak on his life as a composer, conductor, and teacher. I really enjoyed what I heard of his speech, he was a very passionate and witty man, however as an education minor I greatly disagreed with some of what he said. When he got to talking about education he said that educators should not underestimate students and that “people like to be challenged” and that students should not be talked down to because “they are not stupid”. This I agree with students deserve to be challenged because if a teacher set the bar high then they will learn more than if you expect little of them. However, he then goes on to say that he believes that government officials make decisions regarding education so student “remain ignorant in a state of mind where they cannot criticize the government, where they have not got any qualifications”. I feel that at least in America things are FAR more complex than this. There are so many more factors in the quality of education in public schools (Note: I am using public school in the American way). The reason public schools, especially urban public schools, do not do as well as suburban and private schools is because the high quality teachers want to go where they will get paid the most and have the fewest problems. Urban public schools do not pay as much as private schools and often have more disciplinary problems. This and White Flight combine to drag down the public school systems in both the United States and England, it is not simply the government holding down the proletariat.

He later says that he does not understand why schools have stopped teaching Latin and Shakespeare, because he feels that students are fully capable of learning them (however I cannot find the direct quotation in the link). I do not believe that Latin is being taken off school curriculum is because they don’t feel that students are able to learn it, but rather because it has become obsolete. One of the readings that I had in my Kaleidoscope education book (I really wish I had it with me) specifically talked about this issue. The article in the book was an abstract story that told about a caveman-like society, within the story the elders wanted the youngsters to learn about the certain extinct animals and how to kill them rather than teach them how to kill the animals that they would encounter in everyday life. This article, though abstract, is specifically talking about subjects like Latin in the modern education system. How often is an American or British student going to encounter Latin? Now how often are they going to encounter Spanish or French in their lifetimes? Obviously Spanish and French are much more useful than Latin or Ancient Greek, so the school district decides to cut Latin and add a French department. The school district does not do this simply because they do not think the students are capable of learning Latin, as Sir Peter Maxwell Davies suggests, but rather because it is becoming extinct and there are more useful things to be taught.

Overall, I enjoyed Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ speech however I found that he oversimplified many major educational issues that are very important to me. So, I felt it necessary to set the record straight and blog about eduction here and in the US, as we do face many of the very same problems.

If you would like to listen to Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ speak on education and his life here is a link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/b00mj5xs

Tags: Rebecca

Growing Pains

September 8th, 2009 · No Comments

Whenever I have been observing other cultures, religions, and areas on our tours of London, this one quote from Brick Lane always resounds through my head: “If you mix with all these people, even if they are good people, you have to give up your culture to accept theirs. That’s how it is.” No matter how much some people try to create their lifestyle exactly like how it was from where they come from, it can never be quite exact. I believe that in order for people to adjust and live here in the United Kingdom they have to give up something of themselves because it is just not completely possible to fully live like they used to or want to. The results, I feel, can be both positive and negative.

One of the positives (and negatives) of having these many diverse cultures and religions all found throughout the UK and all trying to adjust, is that it can allow both for ignorance and knowledge. I am sure many people would look the other way when noticing, for example, the splendor of the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir and choose not to learn anything about their lifestyle or religion. They either keep their remarks and thoughts to themselves, or let it out in the form of harsh words and criticisms that do nothing for anybody but make things more complicated. Then there are people, like our group, who (somewhat) chose to visit the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir and tried to keep an open mind when learning about their lifestyle. We may not particularly agree with few or any part of their religion and lives, but I bet every one of us learned something about them. As much as the adjustment of a “new” culture into another can promote ignorance, I feel that it also gives a chance for further knowledge.

In the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Temple, I noticed their adaptions to living in the UK. One of the major things I noticed  that the temple was geared towards educating the public and those of their religion as well. Unlike the Sikh temple, who was not used to giving tours, the Shir Swaminarayan Mandir was clearly adept to giving tours to all those interested and curious. The museum and exhibition (namely called ‘Understanding Hinduism‘) was definitely geared towards those who either had little or no knowledge on their religion. It seemed that the Mandir made a concious choice to allow those curious about their religion to come in and be educated about it. After going through that museum, one could no longer claim they were “ignorant” about that religion.

Even though the Sikh Temple in Southall was a little less “showy” than the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, I think they also strove to make sure those interested in their lifestyle were educated. Even though they were a little less adept to giving tours to the curious public, they still had pamplets with information on their religion and even welcomed anyone to come and eat with them. Both the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir and the Sikh Temple allowed and welcomed visitors into their places of worship. In addition to giving tours, both religious institutions had libraries for anyone who wanted to browse and learn more. Even though their difference in beliefs and religion might divide them from others, people only have to come and learn more about them. This is partially what makes for these cultures to have trouble adjusting to a new one, for it does not help anyone when one culture refuses to learn about another. People, I feel, don’t want to take the time to find these possible parallels between other time periods, cultures and religions, but they are out there, all they have to do is learn.

Another part of the trouble of some of these religions’ adjustments or even trying to fully create this lifestyle close to home, is generations (mostly the second generations) that want to reject or modify the customs and practices. You see in White Teeth, for example, these conflicts in Magid and Millat, the twin boys of Samad, a man who grew up in Bangladesh. Magid is sent to Bangladesh to be brought up in the proper ways of Islamic teaching. Millat stays here in the UK and grows up and learns in a different manner. The complete opposite happens between the twin boys, for Millat becomes a religious radical and Magid becomes more “English”. These conflicts, whether positive or negative, are necessary for the advancement of a society and a religion. In every century, in every decade, religions and cultures are always being modified, even if it is just slightly. Even though I think that it is sometimes detrimental that these religions have to make some adjustments in order to reside here in the UK, it is the way of life and sometimes can even turn into a positive for their lifestyle.

Tags: Alli · readings