New University – New World

My new university is different to what I’m used to. Different in each and every aspect.

Class started fifteen minutes ago? Just enough time for another sip of tea. Professor starts talking politics? Get ready for a wild and loud discussion throughout the benches, at times at a level harmful to sensitive ears. Feeling hungry? Don’t worry, everyone will share their food with you without even asking if you want any: sharing is caring! Heavy rainstorm outside? Let’s cancel class. Deadlines? Don’t take it that seriously, the concept of time is a different one here. Expecting powerpoint presentations with the core theories and concepts taught during class which are accessible for the students to study? Nice joke; there is no such thing. One had better make use of a pen to take notes and to transfer the chalk from the blackboard onto paper and into their heads.

I am currently spending my days in the classrooms of Anna University in Chennai, India. I don’t study Psychology here as I do in Switzerland, instead I am studying Electronic Media; a subject of which I know little, but I am trying my best to keep up with the other 29 students in my class. However, at times it can be hard to follow the lessons due to multiple reasons: the whirring sound of the fans above our heads blends with the professor’s lecture which is an acoustic challenge to understanding the content. Also, first I had to get used to the Indian accent and to figure out how certain words are pronounced in order to follow the dialogue. In addition, sudden shifts from the usual teaching medium English to their local language Tamil occur regularly. Even though I am trying to learn their language bit by bit, it is basically impossible for me to follow conversations, especially when multiple people are speaking at once. Luckily though, my classmates are always happy to help. They either translate what I cannot understand, or explain the issues and topics concerning Tamil Nadu or India in general, of which I have only little knowledge. So, despite those complicating factors, I am learning a lot not only about the matter of the subjects taught, but also about the local social, political and educational system.

2 o’clock can mean anything between 2:00 and 2:55 because it still has a 2 in it, right?

To me, the two most striking differences compared to Switzerland are the way people approach time and organization. The fact that “Indian Standard Time”, short IST, is also called “Indian Stretchable Time” shows their rather lenient view on punctuality. 2 o’clock can mean anything between 2:00 and 2:55 because it still has a 2 in it, right? In line with their sense of time comes the organizational issue. Coming from an overly organized country like Switzerland, it took a lot of patience and persistency to achieve seemingly simple things such as getting registered in the city or applying for a student ID card, a task which took three and a half months to get done. I try to see it as an exercise to develop more patience.

The way students interact with each other and the professor is also very different to what I am used to. On the one hand a lot of respect is shown towards the professor, which is shown when they enter the room and everyone stands up, and always addressing them with Mam or Sir. On the other hand, there is a lot of laughing together and laid back talking about non-educational related topics. This creates a very pleasant atmosphere in the classroom which I enjoy a lot.

My fellow students are also eager to learn and participate very actively in class. It is nice to witness that they want to gain knowledge. They are intelligent and wonderful people who have included me in their group from the very first day on and over time we have built strong friendships which I am sure will last for a long time.

In conclusion I can say that this is a new experience on all levels. Even though it can be challenging at times, it is rewarding, and I am enjoying my exchange semester in India to the fullest.

Alessia Giezendanner

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