Tokiana Rakotonirainy was my fellow graduate batch mate at The University of Madras, Chennai, India. Usually goes by the name Toki and hails from Madagascar. In this post we have interviewed Toki to share with us his experience of living in a whole new country with different culture. Toki was really sweet trying to be patient with us in answering all our queries and remarks. Hope it gives you some light on India/Chennai from a Foreigner POV especially to International Students who come a long way to pursue their research and education in India. Feel free to post your queries and comments. Like and follow us for more information and interviews on foreign visits in India to get your perspective.
” My name is Tokiana but my friends used to call me Toki. I am from Madagascar. Few years back, after finishing my Bachelor, I was trying to find other opportunities abroad for my Master degree. I applied for 3 Universities which offered scholarships. Two of them were in UK and one in India. Through the Indian Council for Cultural Affairs, I was given opportunity to pursue my Master degree in my given choice of program. After some research online I chose Public Administration in the University of Madras. The application process lasted 6 months and I was not sure to get the scholarship. Fortunately, I was informed later by the Embassy that I was among the selected. That’s how I ended up in Chennai. Actually, I did my Bachelor in Nashville, Tennessee. For the North American system, a bachelor last 4 years.
The first thing in my mind when planning the trip was the language barrier and weather. In fact, I was looking for some information online and most of it was outdated. Concerning the weather, I am used to hot weather but the maximum is around 34 C whether in Madagascar or back in Nashville.
The language barrier was terrible for me especially during the 3 months. I was struggling applying for the registration in the University. No proper assistance was given to foreign students on how and where to go. Even if they do help, the Indian accent was new to me so I had trouble understanding the instructions.
It’s been two years now but frankly the scorching weather is still difficult for me. Also, most foods are unhealthy (too much oil and sweet). I cannot say if I like it or not but I somehow adapted myself.
The interesting thing about Chennai and India is that there are many similarities to Madagascar. For examples: pollution, small shops everywhere, administrative delay or red-tapism, corruptions, bikes and cars driving without respect of traffic rules and so on. However, Chennai’s growing infrastructures (malls, flyover, metro, trains) and average securities are the two things I like here. Law and Order: Strong presence of Police personnel. Yet, It’s very unproductive because people feel lazy to do works and go out of their house because of the Heat.
I’ve been to few places but the cities look similar (many shops, overpopulated areas). I like to see new things. There are many good sites for experiencing what India is about.
Regarding the School, the level of Masters was not as I expected. It was kind of similar to Bachelor level from my UG. Also, the examination system and marking was very demanding especially writing pages and pages. However, my classmates and most faculties were welcoming and had understanding.
I’d say the memory shared with others (friends and classmates) during those two years will be cherished. I cannot say any specific things because all the small moments made it great. My bad experience would be the delay of administrative works (Official documents, administration in the University, and so on). People seem to be indifferent to your problems when you have urgent case.
Similarly to other blog posts and information, Chennai is more conservative than other big cities in India. Most of it is rooted on traditions and limited to that. I am not a big fan of chilly or spicy foods so I had few food choices only. However, I like the cost of living, it’s similar to my country. I can buy cheap snacks and drinks at fair prices. That enable me to tastes some new things without spending huge amount of money.
Women, Most of them are too conservative and sometimes closed-minded. Compared to my place and western countries, girls do not really have freedom and abilities to express themselves even after reaching the maturity age (21). They still have to rely on approval from parents and relatives.
I am not really a big fan of sports but every country has its own craze. USA: American football/Baseball/or Basketball. India: Cricket. However, it’s good to see that young people are interested in sports instead of other immoral activities.
Regarding Indian movies, I am choosier concerning them. I do not usually watch when it’s not catching my attention. Even Hollywood movies, I prefer comedy, good actions, and documentary. I don’t usually watch movies with songs or musical comedy. Therefore, I do not like to watch Indian movies because there are always singing on it. The exceptions are: PK, 3 idiots (Hindi), and V.I.P. (Tamil).
I am not sure if I may come back but may be. It depends on the programs and the University. Based on my own experience, it was just similar to my UG programs. I think the level for M.A. program should be more similar to MPhil as well.
My advice is: try to ask for proper guide or proper briefing about the Univ , the city before coming. U should ask also the organization or the University for proper assistance in order to adapt smoothly here. “
Le Amusant wishes Tokiana a very good luck on his life venture as he bids goodbye to Chennai and India. We will truly miss him. More stories and personal experiences yet to come through our Blog~azine.
Until Next Time.