The world has become a global village and the higher education scenario in India is a testament to this. Several schools and colleges across the country are offering exchange programmes and internships for students in universities abroad. Apart from these, students also have a plethora of options in terms of scholarships from aid groups.
Such short-term courses provide students with exposure to teaching and research methodology, an opportunity to learn in a multi-cultural environment and experience a slice of international university life.
“We wanted to provide students with an international exposure at a fraction of what an entire degree would cost. This led to the birth of a summer internship programme, where students spend four weeks in a foreign university,” explains Lalitha Balakrishnan, principal, MOP Vaishnav College for Women, Chennai. The college launched a Centre of Excellence which enables students from the departments of media and business school to attend an intensive internship programme in universities across the U.S., the U.K., and Canada. Their partner universities include Kingston, the U.K.; Lowell, Illinois Institution of Technology, University of Massachusetts, the U.S, and Vancouver film school, Canada.
“Modules were tailored for our internship programme with several classes providing an environment for practical learning. I will now be able to make an informed decision whilst applying for a master’s degree abroad,” says Pooja Jeeva, second-year B. Com student at MOP. She attended a summer course on management and leadership at the University of Massachusetts. One faculty accompanied the students to each university. “The programme helped them understand the ropes of international standards of teaching and enabled them to share the knowledge with faculty back at home,” believes Ramya Raman, Head, of the Department of MBA, MOP Vaishnav College for Women.
While it is an internship for some undergraduate students, those pursuing a PhD often experience an exchange research scholar programme through their courses. Niraja Swaminathan, pursuing a PhD in IIT Madras, was awarded the SERIIUS-MAGEEP scholarship in 2014. As part of this programme, she went to Arizona State University (ASU) for about three months. She found this programme beneficial, owing to the state-of-the-art laboratory and collaborative research projects. “I worked in a photovoltaic reliability lab PRL in ASU. In terms of research, every university or a department specialises in one or two core areas. With such exchange programmes, research scholars like me learn more about a core specialisation outside of our university.
Scholarship programmes offered by the U.S-India Educational Foundation (USIEF) established to promote educational exchanges between the U.S. and Indian nationals — is another interesting platform providing students, academics and professionals with an opportunity to study or conduct research in specific disciplines. USIEF administers the Fulbright Programme that offers fully-funded scholarships to facilitate learning, research and teaching for Indian students and faculty. “Fulbright is the U.S. Government’s flagship international educational exchange programme. In India, the Fulbright-Nehru fellowships are jointly funded by the Governments of U.S. and India,” explains Maya Sundararajan, regional officer, USIEF, Chennai. Details are available on www.usief.org.in.
Shreya Singh, a Fulbright-Nehru master’s scholarship winner says her journey was all about peer-to-peer and experiential learning. “The professors at Columbia College, Chicago, (where she pursued her master’s) were friendly, and the teaching methodology gave freedom to students for self-learning. And there was no hierarchy-based system in the classroom,” adds Singh.
Currently, an independent researcher, Devi S.B, was offered a full-scholarship for one-semester abroad at the University of Birmingham. She was pursuing her integrated master’s in electronic media at Anna University. “The best part about the exchange programme was the ability to be independent at 19. The courses were practical, and I found my future specialisation calling whilst learning at the university,” explains Devi.