Campus Culture in the Indian Plateau by Claire Bens

Claire Bens is a junior at Ohio University, majoring in political and global studies, focusing on peace and war. Claire is currently studying in Hyderabad, India at the University of Hyderabad.

Part of study abroad is a new university. This means a new campus culture with new activities and events and organizations. Although Ohio University will always be my favorite campus, trying out a new one opens you up to fresh opportunities. This semester, I have had a lot of fun participating in the University of Hyderabad customs. UoH or central university is very different from OU. Firstly, the student body is only around 5,000 and the majority of these students are postgraduates. Additionally, central university has an enormous campus that is spread out over miles of wilderness with intermittent buildings and a lot of residential areas for students, professors and staff. Because this is a primarily residential campus, there are always things going on. The cricket field is abuzz with games starting around 5 PM every evening until almost midnight as students relax and enjoy the break from the blistering heat. Every department at the university also regularly hosts guest lecturers, which are open to all students. Finally, the political movements, which are so important to India as the world’s largest democracy, are alive and bustling on campus. It is not unusual to have classes interrupted by students protesting various causes from national political issues to demands for better dorms and student facilities on campus.

Living on campus has given me the opportunity to fully embrace campus life and get involved in different activities. My first action was to learn to play cricket, the quintessential Indian sport. Our cricket team lost during the first round of the tournament, but our loss was applauded because we were one of the few teams with a cheering section, a team dance, and a genuine look of confusion when the referees explained the rules of the sport during the game. Similarly, I joined a football (or soccer, if your unfamiliar with the British-influenced terminology) team. This display, although not much more graceful, had somewhat of a role reversal, as I was the teacher of the rules and a much more experienced player than my Indian teammates. Despite my recently discovered passion for athletics, I have also attended several cultural events. I attended the Uranium film festival, a traveling festival of short films dedicated to all types of issues with uranium use. After the films we all participated in a group discussion about the use of uranium in India. Sharing perspectives between Indian and Western students helped us bring to light some of the disturbing worldviews that block understanding of issues like environmental preservation across cultures.

My favorite event on campus thus far however has been Sukoon. Sukoon is a week-long festival held in March at the University of Hyderabad. The festivities include carnival rides, face painting, poetry, singing, and dance competitions, a Mr. and Mrs. Sukoon pageant, food, and live music. This event seems paradoxical at such a prestigious and serious university. However, somehow the lighthearted nature and whimsical fun of riding a Ferris wheel and eating cotton candy works as a simple distressing agent in the weeks leading up to final exams. Sukoon was simply the cherry-on-top of a fantastic experience with campus life at an Indian university.

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