Kolkata turns education hub for foreign students KOLKATA: Kolkata is slowly turning into an education hub for students from countries like the US, South Korea and Japan. These young people have discovered heady pre-professional educational opportunities in the city amid the bedlam, the serpentine alleys, the careening buses, taxis, rickshaws and trams. If India is awash with reverse brain drain, can the City of Joy be far behind? "Kolkata is my adopted home. It's overwhelming," says Mai Yaginuma (25), who is pursuing homeopathy at the National Institute of Homeopathy, Salt Lake. She's here from Sendai, Japan, since 2011 through an ICCR programme because her country doesn't offer a degree course in homeopathy. Her friend Chie Toyohara (22) happily introduces herself in accented Bengali, "Ami Tokyo theke eshechhi. Aamar naam Chai." Among others into professional education or internships is Kiara Machuca, intern with Destiny Foundation/Reflection in Lake Gardens. "I was told that Kolkata is a history lesson. Now I know it's much more. The Kolkata experience changes the way you view life," avers the 20-year-old US citizen of Mexican origin. The student of marketing and Spanish from Santa Clara University is here under the Global Women's Leadership Network programme. "I was surprised to see how safe the city is for women. Buses are fine even if you don't have space. I have seen so much, yet so little. I don't think I could get enough of this incredible place," says Kiara, who has discarded her jeans for a more "comfortable" salwar kameez. The delight of riding a bus (route number 101) or the trade-mark Ambassador yellow taxi through the potholed streets never ceases to intrigue. "I did my homework before coming here. Kolkata, built and driven by a diverse influx of foreigners such as Armenians, Portuguese, Chinese and British, is a city of immigrants. No wonder it adopted me so easily," says Nathalie Vu (20) from California, an intern with Destiny Foundation. "Since I want to specialize in non-profit merchandising, this internship is a good opportunity for me. Being in close contact with the economically backward but talented people, I can get a first-hand experience of my specialization," Nathalie says. She is saddened by the inequalities prevalent in the city, though. "The apathy toward the poor is the toughest on me," she rues. "It's hot and humid. Kolkata is no tourist destination. It's about real people," reasons Keunil Yoon (English name: Jack). The 25-year-old from Korea is studying spoken English at Bourneville's South-Asia Development Centre in Salt Lake. Jack has been placed with Siemens and commutes on his own to his Kasba office. Sudeshna Chatterjee, director of the South-Asia Development Centre, is forever trying to make them feel at home. "We started this English training course from this year and tapped the East Asian market really well. Some of our students wish to stay on if they find good jobs. Kolkata's appeal, it seems, is growing." Among them is Korean Eunthye Park (English name: Ann). "I'll stay back if I get a job," she says. Last year, CNN reported 3,000 foreigners having listed with a jobsite, seeking work in India, including Kolkata. For Ann, the cultural pull is really strong. "I would like to call Seoul and Kolkata my homes and keep moving between the two places. Kolkata is a city of intellectuals. I love the way people here give precedence to art rather than economy." Gyeong Hwan Min (Kyle) from Daegu says, "In our country, the experience of working in India is a plus point in resumes. I think I shall come back here and then move to Bangalore." "Things are not in control here. I am inevitably late for work, thanks to the traffic snarls. But people are okay with it. There is no deadline which must be strictly followed," quips Ann. Jack's biggest problem is the noise. "When you are at home (guest house) and trying to do something by yourself, there is so much cacophony." But, the chaos is fun, too. Consider this bizarre sight: Ann, boarding a local train from Bidhannagar Road to Dum Dum station and then riding a rickshaw, chatting with the rickshaw wallah. She has her hands full, 'churmur', a chain of Rajanigandha and hugs a street dog with her left hand. Inquisitive onlookers are greeted with a wide smile and a heavily accented: "Apnee keemon achhen? (How are you?)." The latest additions to her vocabulary are "daan dikey" and "baan dikey". Kolkata turns education hub for foreign students - The Times of India ************************************************ It does indicate that Kolkata continues to be a city that it continues to be an education hub that is of quality.