University: A truly international experience.

May 16, 2012 1:42 pm

Many students choose their local University for study, but Danish Diwan’s University of choice; approximately 5,000 miles away from his home, certainly made him notice a culture difference or two.

University is generally regarded as a major part of one’s life. A journey of self-discovery: learning exciting new subjects and meeting interesting people. For most of us though, we usually share the same first language as our fellow students, or even our country of birth for that matter, but for Danish Diwan, University has been a completely different experience.

Pakistani-born, Danish is a third year Business student at the University of Kent, Canterbury. He chose England as his place of study for varying reasons: his respect of the English education system, his interest to learn about English culture, his desire to grow and mature and also, his love for English football – of course!

However, student life did not start easy for Danish. “My first month was the most horrible month of my life” he tells me, crouching on his undoubtedly budget mattress in his student house, “I didn’t know anyone and I felt a bit shy.”

While these may sound like familiar symptoms of the nervous first year, Danish was experiencing another lifestyle change: “Yeah, well, in Pakistan I am actually a very rich kid” he admits diffidently. Having a privileged upbringing, with seven servants attending to your every need for 23 years, no wonder Danish felt a shock upon seeing his new bedroom, “I suddenly just walked into a very small room and then I had to cook myself… I didn’t know how to do anything!” A tenth of the size of his room at home, his Keynes college bedroom must have seemed like a cupboard to the ‘Pakistani Prince’ his housemates amiably nickname him.

When asked if he feels any distance with his fellow students due to background or age, Danish being 25 this year and his housemates just skirting 20, he firmly negates the notion. “It feels like we are all the same age…we are all in Kent Uni, so there’s actually no difference. We are at the same place, so this makes us equals.”

To hear this from ‘a rich kid’ whose homeland is rigidly class structured, with people driving, cooking and cleaning for him, is rather refreshing. “In Pakistan you can easily tell the difference between rich, middle class, working class; very easily.” As he becomes quieter and slightly recoils, he goes on, “The rich and middle class wouldn’t talk to the lower class, whereas the people in England are very, very friendly. You can’t talk to a random person in Pakistan, it’s just not allowed!” This change in equality Danish has experienced significantly contrasts with some of the lesser changes other undergraduates undergo, like learning to cook pasta – not that Danish didn’t learn that too. Not only has his home changed, but also his attitude towards the world.

“I’ve completely changed!” Danish exclaims, “I think I was a bit ignorant to the world, because I hadn’t had the chance to explore or learn. After a time in the same environment you don’t learn; you’re just growing up in that environment. But here, I’ve definitely learnt a lot, learnt to stand on my feet, learnt to take the pain. I’m a bit more tolerant as well.”

Many international students face these feelings. 23% of Kent University’s population is international students, with Pakistan being among the top ten non-EU countries sending students for English study. It has become a regular feature we come to expect at a British university: various foreign societies and events prevalent across the student social scene.

This fusion of international and home students is extremely potent as it is through these acquaintances that people feel they gain a deeper understanding and insight of the world and its cultures. Danish explains that being the last of his friends to leave Pakistan for his degree became a main source of motivation, “All your friends go abroad and you stay back home, you feel less intelligent, or not as experienced.”

Of course, while it is not a necessity to study abroad, the advantages it brings seem invaluable. Danish’s experience at UKC shows how university truly does have the potential to change and enrich people’s outlooks upon the world. For someone whose upbringing taught them, “image is very important” to now have no concept of pretension or judgment is inspiring. A foreign university does not simply involve travel, it also encompasses learning; the perfect combination to genuinely immerse oneself in another culture.

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