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Updated: July 3, 2013 19:00 IST

American dreams

Shilpa Nair
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Aiming High: Gauthaman Prasad
Aiming High: Gauthaman Prasad

Gauthaman Oduvil Prasad, a Make A Difference student, says he looks forward to his year in the U.S.

Gauthaman Oduvil Prasad is on a high. This 18 year-old assistant mechanic, who works at an automobile workshop in Aluva, is all set to take off to the United States to study an automotive course at the College of DuPage in Illinois.

His papers are all ready, and as he awaits his tickets he is a picture of calm. “I am not nervous. I am all set and prepared for the experience,” is what he says. Make A Difference (MAD) was instrumental in making this a reality, he says. He has been a student of MAD for the last three years.

Gauthaman is one of a group of 37 students selected from the country to participate in the U.S. government’s Community College Initiative (CCI) programme. Knowledge of English is a pre-requisite for qualifying for the scholarship and he has been learning English under MAD for the last three years at the Sneha Bhavan centre. Gauthaman’s mother is a junior staffer in a city hospital. His father is no more. “My ammachi is happy about the fact that I am going to the U.S. And I am looking forward to it,” he adds. The rigorous qualifying exam included a written assessment and proficiency in spoken English.

Giving him tips is Jobish Mathew. Jobish was the last MAD student to go on the CCI programme last year. “The first couple of months were tough. But from then on it was alright,” says Jobish who completed a course in Network Engineering from Gadsden Community College in Alabama. His father is a head-load worker. “The English is very different from what we are used to. They have that accent which was initially tough for me to decipher. Otherwise it was a good experience,” says Jobish who has acquired a bit of an American twang.

In terms of tips, he says, “travelling alone was the biggest challenge. Then adjusting to a new, alien culture is something else that requires an effort.” Jobish is trying for admission to engineering colleges in the U.S. and would like to go back. But he is also on the lookout for a job here, he says. Same goes for Gauthaman, “if I get a job there or an opportunity for higher studies I will carry on there. However, if I get better opportunities here I will come back.”

The program awards scholarships for a year to study at a community college in the US. Students receive training in academic English, and selected fields such as information technology, management, media, applied engineering, business, agriculture and hotel management. The program also provides leadership training, while involving participants in most aspects of life in the U.S.

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