At home, 8,000 miles away

Students from India spend four weeks studying at CSB/SJU

November 19, 2012

By Adam Tucker '14

The College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University offers students the chance to find a "home away from home." For some exchange students that second home just happened to be almost 8,000 miles away from their original home.

For Snehal Kanodia, George Augustine and 10 other students from India who studied on the CSB/SJU campuses for the past month as part of an exchange program with St. Xavier's College in Kolkata, India, the distance has only made their experience better.

"It's been an amazing experience. Classes have been wonderful and the people are so friendly," Augustine said. "It's very different from being home in India, but in a very good way."

The 12 students were hosted by the Center for Global Education as part of a four-week Global Institute Program that is a portion of CSB/SJU's partnership with St. Xavier's College - the location in India where CSB/SJU students in the Office of Education Abroad's India program study.  

Despite the cold months of a Minnesota autumn, the St. Xavier's College students kept both warm and busy, many of whom had packed schedules, credit-filled classes and the difficulties of navigating new college campuses for several weeks.

"For me, the best thing to adjust to here is that it's a liberal arts college, because our school back home is not," Kanodia said. "Classes have been interesting, the campus is beautiful, and everything has been very well-planned."

The students in the Global Institute Program are given a compressed form of the CSB/SJU experience - a core colloquium class on American culture and the opportunity to participate in regular CSB/SJU classes, whether or not they are part of that student's intended major.

"The most rewarding part of this for me has been watching them connect with American students and culture," Center for Global Education Program Manager Paula Ramaley said. "But what the St. Xavier's students bring to us and this campus is just as important as what they take away."

For Ramaley, and for the dozens of students who have interacted with the Indian students inside and outside of the classroom for the past few weeks, the experiences have been fruitful.

"They have a different worldview than students here do," Ramaley said. "It has been a great part of internationalizing the campus, and it's been a great experience for everyone."

And for the St. Xavier's students, that liberal arts freedom has been the best part of the entire experience. For some, it's the element they took away from CSB and SJU.

"I like that people here can study biology and art at the same time if they want to," Kanodia said. "The liberal arts experience here is very strong, and taking classes outside my major has been very rewarding and fun."

But for George and a few of the other St. Xavier's students, most of the fun, as well as learning, came from outside of the classroom.

"My favorite part of the trip was the homestay," Augustine said, smiling. "I went deer hunting with the student I stayed with, and we got a nine-pointer. It was amazing."

This type of international experience is not unique to St. Xavier's or even this one program, as CSB and SJU currently boasts five Global Institute programs, a nationally-recognized number of study abroad programs and was awarded the Senator Paul Simon Award for Global Internationalization Nov. 13 in Washington, D.C.

"The global experience is really a critical part of what we do at CSB/SJU," Ramaley said. "Internationalization and globalization in education is essential, and this is just one step in that process."

The students, who departed for Kolkata on Nov. 17, came to call CSB/SJU another home, one they will miss and remember.

"It's ending almost before I had a chance to get accustomed to things, we were just getting into a routine," said Kanodia several days before his departure. "I'll miss all the people we have met, as well as the experiences with students and staff."

Because of the program's desire to give the St. Xavier's students both a cultural and liberal arts experience, some of the students describe interactions with professor and staff as lasting memories.

"There was a class that didn't fit into my schedule, but they made it work for me to take it," Kanodia said. "I can't praise the global education here enough, it's been amazing."

But for others, the friends-and food-they  discovered during their time on campus will be the lasting memories they ponder back in India.

What food?

"Bacon," said Augustine with a grin. "I'm really going to miss the bacon here."