India Education
Young minds from six countries meet to exchange notes
Apr 16, 2007 - 5:35:54 PM

New Delhi, April 16 - Looking great with her henna-decorated hands, 18-year-old Nellya Khairova of Kazakhstan can't stop talking about her latest shopping spree at a local market in Delhi. She is one of the 50 students from six countries who are here on a three-day regional conference of youth leaders from across South and Central Asia.

'I and my friend bought these two beautiful saris, one in orange and one in blue, and after repeated attempts we finally managed to drape them on,' said Nellya.

All the students had earlier visited America as part of an exchange programme to promote democratic principles, community service, tolerance and mutual understanding.

'The exchange programmes are aimed at building linkages and bonds among young people all over the world. So we have students from various countries going to the US and spending 10 months there, staying with an American family and attending school.

'These experiences help them confront their prejudices and think as more mature individuals. The meeting here today is of all those students who have participated in the exchange programmes over the last two years to share their experiences and discuss about their future plans,' Larry Schwartz, minister-counsellor for public affairs of the American embassy, told IANS.

Students from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and India participated in the conference.

As they spoke about their experiences, it was evident that they have memories to cherish for a lifetime. And for many, the programme was an opportunity to re-discover their own country.

'When I was in America for the exchange programme, I realised that there were a lot of things that I did not know about my own country. So when someone asks me something that I didn't know about India, I would have to do some research on it.

'Hence other than discovering new cultures and traditions of the other countries whose delegates were there in the conference, I was actually discovering my own country as well!' said Nirali Machhar of India.

For some students like Mir Wais of Afghanistan, the exchange programme was an opportunity to break away from some of his perceptions and ideas.

'Before going on the trip I thought that all Americans are prejudiced against Afghans. But after spending a good 10 months there, I realised that it was not true. I also got an opportunity to tell my friends there and in other countries about my country, its culture and people.

'Afghanistan is not what you think it is, is what I told everyone,' Mir smiled as he talked to IANS. He is now studying and forming a group to teach women of the area he lives in.

'Most women who teach English to other women don't know the language well themselves. So we are trying to help those women teachers,' Mir said.

Working in orphanages is what Sania Ali Khan does back home in Pakistan. 'I am studying as well as coordinating various activities like teaching, playing and supplying stationary and chocolates to children in orphanages,' she said.

'I can't imagine not being able to demand for something I really want. I am so pampered at home,' she added. But her trip to India has her in smiles.

'I am loving every bit of it. In fact I don't feel that I am away from home. The people, the culture, the language, everything is so similar to my country. When I was in America I used to be very homesick,' she said.

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