College life is an important chapter in a student’s life. To make this period more fruitful for students, colleges in Nepal are bringing various programmes in recent years and one popular programme is the student exchange programme. It aims to help students understand host country’s culture — where they are going to join short-term courses as well as broaden their academic knowledge.
Are our colleges really providing such programmes? Are students benefiting from such programmes?
As per the Coordinator for Undergraduate Programme at Kathmandu University School of Management (KUSOM) Hari Gopal Risal, “It is one of the regular programmes of our college. Mostly foreign students from New Zealand, US, France and the Netherlands come to us, and our students mostly go to China.”
Due to high expense, Chelsea International Academy does not have students exchange programmes, however, “our students participate in various conferences for two-three days”, informed Programme Director Rajesh Adhikari.
Silver Mountain School of Hotel Management offers an international diploma programme. The college is affiliated to Queen Margaret University, UK. The college has provision for students to complete their last year of diploma from the UK or Nepal as per a student’s choice. “But till now, none of our students has gone there. However, students from there come here,” informed Director of Admissions and Marketing Sandipa Thapa Basnyat.
“We are offering the same course here for Rs 6 lakhs while it would cost around Rs 20 lakhs in the UK. So, students prefer to study here as they get same level’s certificate,” she added.
According to Secretary Britant Khanal from International Law and Relation Studies Centre (a branch of Kathmandu School of Law — KSL), “We are regularly conducting student exchange programmes. The University of Sydney is sending 30 students here for two weeks under the student exchange programmes for the fifth time. We can’t afford to send our students, but we are sending LLB and LLM students to Bangladesh for two weeks to discuss the Nepali Constitution. In three years LLB and LLM students have gone to Bangladesh twice and once respectively.”
As per him, “Foreign students mostly come to Nepal to learn about the Nepali Constitution, International Committee of Red Cross’ role during the civil war, Truth and Reconciliation Commission and why it takes 23 years to complete the 22-km Melamchi (water supply) tunnel.”
Students who participated in student exchange programmes learned to be confident as well as gained knowledge. As per 22-year-old Shailu Sharma, “I got a chance to participate in the Model United Nations (MUN) Conference’s debate programme. As per the rules, I had to represent Saudi Arabia. In the event I debated in support of Sharia law — focusing on the point that this religious law is regarded good according to the Islam religion.”
Sharma studying LLB, VIth Year at KSL, said the programme helped her to be confident to put across her point of view in front of the mass. “It was a wonderful experience. For three days we saw 1,800-plus delegation talk and discuss about various issues of various countries. I realised that we don’t have the habit to speak in English. I also learned the international political scenario and backgrounds which are quite helpful to my subjects.”
Agreeing with Sharma, LLB Vth Year student at Nepal Law Campus Makan Tamang, who had participated in the same programme, shared, “Our college does not have student exchange programmes. So, we went through another organisation and were quite happy to get this exposure.”
Tamang and Sharma participated in the MUN Conference held in Bhuwaneshwor, India at the end of 2015.
However, such short programmes do not bring vast differences in students. They give them exposure but do not make vast differences in their academics, according to Adhikari.
On the contrary, Khanal opined that the programme had helped students to lead and put forward their perspectives while discussing in the international forum. “We built the programme to develop their leadership skills which is quite lacking in our country.”
Such programmes not only give students exposure, they can be a means to get jobs too. Take Adish Kumar Gorkhali for example. This 24-year-old recent graduate of KUSOM, said “We (Nepalis) have the idea that we should learn English and by hook or by crook go to America and Europe, which is a wrong concept”.
Gorkhali learned the Chinese language in KUSOM and took a Diploma course in the Language and Culture at Hebei Normal University, China. In 2016, he participated in ‘15th Chinese Bridge Competition’ held from July 9 for one month. “I beat more than 100 participants from around the world and won the title.”
Chinese Bridge is the biggest Chinese proficiency competition in the world held by Confucius Institute.
“Now, I’m working at Singha Durbar in the solar project aid of the Chinese government,” he said, proudly adding, “When we go to abroad or on such exchange programmes, we should not restrain ourselves. To understand their culture, we should participate in their culture. I learned martial arts, calligraphy and Chinese songs. I knew Chinese people work much harder than us and are very dedicated to their jobs. Without hard work we cannot make our country — we (Nepalis) must learn that.”
A version of this article appears in print on January 04, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.