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In Photos: What Is Life Like For Foreign Students At Delhi University?

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By Roshni Khatri

“Diversity creates dimension in the world” – Elizabeth Ann Lawless

India is an oxymoron in its own essence. It is a melting pot of people from different religions, nationalities, class, creed and kind. And yet this melting pot is notorious for not being the most tolerant or welcoming at times. The classrooms of the University of Delhi have people from not just around the country, but also from across the globe. The university attracts students from all corners of the country because of the variety of courses it offers which makes Delhi as a city, a mini-world in itself.

When I joined the university, it was highly intriguing and fascinating for me to find people from such varied places and backgrounds. In order to know about how people from other countries feel when they visit the city where I belong, I decided to talk to a few about it. In the following conversations with some foreign international students, they told me about their experiences and how is it like to live in Delhi, coming from a different place altogether. They talked about cultural shock, encounters, incidents and keeping the distance aside, how far they really felt from home.

1Hawwa
Hawwa Yania, Maldives
Shaheed Bhagat Singh College

”Being in Delhi is like home now! When I came here first I was so uncomfortable with people, places. I was unhappy actually. I really thought that coming here was a bad choice. But now, I feel like this is my second home. There are rude people as well, some people just mock foreigners sometimes thinking they don’t understand their language, I have had such experiences myself. But I have also met some really helpful and kind people who I’ll always remember.”

2Adylson
Adylson Faquira, Mozambique, City Maputo
Shaheed Bhagat Singh College

”My initial experience with cultural differences was slightly tough but not as bad as I expected it to be. Initially, it took me some time to make friends, some were not very welcoming at first but slowly I was accepted. I think that what helped me settle in were the new friends I made and got to learn a few things from them.”

3Rinzin
Rinzin, Tibet
MSc. from Department of Environmental Studies

“I crossed the border as a small kid. It has been almost nine years since I haven’t seen my family. But still I feel my home very close to me, in my heart, because hope is a beautiful thing and I always keep my hope alive. Tibet will never die because there is no death of human spirit. As far as my Delhi University experience is concerned, I made some really good friends and it has been great.”

4Aminath
Aminath Nazaahath, Maldives
Shaheed Bhagat Singh College

”Main problems of living here are related to communication as I do not understand the language at all. The unfriendliness of most people, feeling of being unwelcome, managing all by my own, and feeling ignored by some teachers for unknown reasons, all make adjusting here a little difficult. Trying to manage and fit into an entirely different culture and society is a challenge and one wouldn’t know the feeling without living in such a situation.”

5Stephan

Stephan, Germany
B.A. (Hons) Physics, Hindu College (Here on a 2-semester exchange program)

“People here are really nice and open. I expected a major cultural difference but it was not as shocking as I thought of it to be. The one thing I realised here is that people don’t take their classes seriously but take their exams really seriously. In Germany, the entire semester is equally important.”

6Zahra
Zahra Hussain Zada, Afghanistan
BSc (Hons) Computer Science, IP College for Women

“I experienced several new things here like using the ATM, going by metro and many other things, and last but not the least seeing everybody being free and nobody even daring to disturb them. Overall, coming to a new place itself is just new and interesting, even if it’s going to bad or good, it doesn’t matter because you’ll find out that life is just not about the place and country you were born and raised in. It’s all about looking deep into new things you haven’t seen before.”

7Anoushka
Anoushka Poudel, Nepal
B.A. (Hons) English, IP college for Women

“The thing about India and Nepal is that they are not at all different. It is only the language. The major problem I faced is not in the college but in my hostel. They treat people of different race differently, they are polite but they act like we know nothing. We understand everything they say, they don’t realise it.

Slowly, I have come to know Delhi and its corners. I have become habituated to the crowd and the occasional smelliness. Nepal with its small population and lack of industries is green. Its emptiness makes it safe while Delhi is a trickster, constantly teaching me to be careful. I was growing in Nepal but I’m a woman in Delhi.”

8Josh

Josh Reid, London
M.A. in History, Faculty of Arts (Here for a 2-semester exchange program)

“The cultural shock I had here was massive in the starting. Especially because of the hot and humid temperature. It took me time to come to ease into that. But Delhi is a fantastic city. It’s big and hectic. The history department here is a bit more old school. In Edinburgh where I studied, everything is done electronically so you submit your essays online, you are given your work online, everything is done over emails. Here it is more professor, people, personal element, which is quite nice and charming actually, in an old school kind of way.”

9Nyima

Nyima Lhamo, Bhutan
B.A (Hons) English, IP College for Women

“Well, it wasn’t such a huge cultural shock for me because a lot of Bhutanese are already familiar with the Indian culture. We watch a lot of Indian movies and soap operas. I’ve been here for 3 years now. This is home too.”

Note: This story was commissioned by Youth Ki Awaaz, as part of our Zoom In contest where Roshni Khatri was one of those selected.

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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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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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