Grounded Dreams

Foreign dreams Not many students are willing to brave the storm of recession and study abroad,

says Radha Prathi

The dearest dream of a good student of engineering who completed his undergraduate studies in the last four decades was to top his degree with a masters from abroad. The favoured choices were USA, UK and Australia, in that order.

This happened to be the unwritten law, though there were students who pursued other streams of education.

Even as the students were in the sixth semester of their studies they would gear up to make their passports, prepare for their GRE, GMAT and TOEFL, arrange for recommendation letters, and involve themselves in a hundred little details that would help them fly towards their destinations.

Every student who pursued his “foreign dream” worked hard for his coveted seat abroad. Many planned to settling down in the alien soil or at least procure a greencard.
The phenomena of hundreds and thousands of students proceeding westward continued from the days of snail mail to current e-mail age with almost clockwork precision. Several related agencies, tutorials and institutes cropped up. They took charge of academic requirements, admissions procedure, travel plans and bank loans among other things.

Everything has changed

Universities abroad have seen generations of Indians studying there and proceeding to work or conduct research in their soil.

This became the accepted norm in the lives of the students, parents and teachers until recession set in.

Now everyone is thinking twice. They are wondering about the monetary feasibility of taking a course abroad. Jayalakshmi, a working parent from the middle class bracket said that she is willing to avail loans and send her son abroad provided somebody assures her that he will be able to earn the money back.

Umanath, a diligent engineering student who has completed the preliminary requisitions, is toying with the idea of taking research at IISc instead of flying abroad. Arpitha, another engineer, is seeking internships in high profile firms and is even considering marriage as an alternative option to continue her studies abroad, despite having scored well in her GRE.

Institutions like Kaplan, Princeton, Times and Visu are finding that their workload has been considerably lightened as a direct impact of the contemporary economic trend.
Colleges, which used to keep their office staff on their toes, help potential candidates to procure their certificates, mark sheets and recommendation letters, are finding the going easier. Suddenly there has been a noticeable drop in the number of visa applications despite procuring the coveted I- 20.

There is a noticeable drop in the numbers and the regular pattern but this is only one side of the story. Araddhana, the director of Princeton review feels that students with the zeal and the ambition of going abroad are still pursuing their dreams without any dip in their enthusiasm. She maintains that when quality is maintained the rest will follow.
Three major locations covering India as a study abroad destination are Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad. A close observation reveals that the trends in south India are mainly for students opting for higher graduate studies with a stronger inclination towards MS and PhD degrees. They are doing as well as ever.

Also, as a natural next step, several IT employees with engineering background are opting for further studies given the recession not offering good job prospects at this point in time.

Earlier mostly meritorious students made their way to various universities abroad. Students with mediocre academic records barely stood a chance because merit mattered. Of late many students with average calibre are finding foreign doors opening to them. They find the recession to be a boon in disguise.

Average performers

Savitha, a good student, who lost her mother two years, was able to score only an aggregate of 67% in her BE. Nevertheless she decided to pursue her studies abroad and gained admission into a fairly good university recently. Prabhakar who has worked with an IT company for four years has decided to do his MBA from abroad and is busy getting ready to translate his academic dream into reality.

There are yet another genre of students with a sharp mind and a wealthy background, who may have not fared well academically. Recession is proving to be favourable to them for it bestows upon them another chance repair their educational profile.
As they say, one man’s food is another man’s poison.

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