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Entering An ‘Unfamiliar World’: What Outstation Students Feel Before Starting College

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By Sakshi Jain

Always in the big woods when we leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is the fear of the Unknown and our first bond with the wilderness we are going to.

-Wendell Berry

Fixity is the requisite ingredient in everyone’s life, the realisation of its cessation and replacement by the unfamiliar seems catastrophic in our smooth sail of life. Such is the catastrophe of outstation students in college who have to let go of the fixity and enter the unfamiliar world thus changing the notion of their present as past.

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Making the transition from school to college is ardently anticipated by some while others look at with trepidation. For the outstations, trepidation sometimes overrules eager anticipation. While the fear of ‘change’ remains constant in every student, its type decides the overruling factor for students shifting bases. Students, in their 15 years of school life, get accustomed to an academic structure which restricts their knowledge to course books and increases their dependence on their teachers. College on the contrary, would involve a different course structure with a redefined student-professor relationship. Entering this metamorphosed world of academics with changing notions of ‘teachers’ as ‘professors’ and ‘classes’ as ‘lectures’ muddles the fixity of students’ life. For outstation students, this transformation has further implications. The idea of coming to a new city brings a bag full of apprehensions for them, be it the fear of living amidst strangers, getting attuned to the new locations of city or the life of travelling in the local public transport.

Their pre-eminent apprehension is to make a new family not only in college but back in their new putative ‘home’. While others would go back to their home embodying familiar faces waiting for them, they fear that their home will be an island surrounded by wilderness. This is augmented by the worry of being shouldered with umpteen responsibilities for now no money in purse would mean running towards an ATM and not parents, satisfying hunger would mean either starving or going against will to push the lazy body into cooking, and finding a lost pair of socks would mean arraying the dishevelled cupboard after the search as dependence on family will be a notion of the past and self-dependence that of the present.

In a world of complete oblivion and haze, the search for a friend to settle the haze seems to be the primary battle of an outstation against the differences which aren’t only individualistic but also cultural. Owing to the diversity of our nation, they apprehend the repercussions of cultural differences, the fear of acceptance and integration disturbs them. They dread isolation for they feel that local students have a common sense of identity of belonging to the same city which would lead to their better interaction, connectivity and eventually finding a friend. Being trapped in a dilemma to either change themselves in the process of integration or to adhere to their distinct identity seems to be alarming. Outstation students coming from all corners of the nation fear being victimised by the pre-conceived notions of peers about their native place. For instance, people in Delhi might have a peculiar impression of people belonging to North East, Bihar, UP, Haryana or any other place and vice-versa. Breaking the shackles of such notions seems like a herculean task for them.

With the widely disseminating trend of the nuclear family, the concept of privacy, secluded lifestyle and non-adjusting attitude have emerged. Brought and grown up in this environment like many others, making the move also carries the worry about mutual adjustment and sharing a room with an unfamiliar roommate, an intrusion to their privacy.

Among all these apprehensions lies the hidden hope and exhilaration for a new beginning. The ardour to leave the world of school and enter the world of freedom offered by college allays the fear to some extent. They accept change with audacity and alacrity and yearn to break the shackles of apprehension. In the long run, all these fade away and lead them to a new road where they develop the confidence to walk alone, familiarise with the unfamiliar, to let go of fixity and accept change. The city which once seemed to be a land of wilderness becomes a green grass as they start developing a sense of belongingness. The new family which they fear making becomes their extended family and an integral part of their lives. They turn out to be the masters of their own life, deciders of good and bad and acceptors of ‘change’.

You must be to comment.
  1. Saloni

    This was very beautifully written. You are a great writer!
    And this really helped me a lot, I’m going through this same phase.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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