Equal Opportunity Cell organized an International Educational Excellence Program for students with disabilities, as a part of which 22 students were shortlisted to be taken to two universities of the UK- King’s College London, and University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Apart from developing cultural understanding, the objective was to gain first-hand knowledge of the technologies available there, to know what provisions are made for the students with disabilities and to learn how such students cope up with their problems.
Report on King’s College London programme
After the eight-and-a-half hours journey to London, the faces had a glow of cheer upon entering a foreign land, and the pleasant weather added to the good mood. Students were met by two student ambassadors from King’s College London-Becci and Keshi- who had come to take them to KCL place of accommodation – Stamford Street Apartments - by a special bus arranged by the college. They welcomed students with cheerful faces and were very helpful all through the programme. The way to the college was very interesting as King’s is at the heart of London, and students were amazed at the first look of the wonderful city.
The ten-day program schedule was set by King’s College London, keeping a striking balance between fun and learning. Some visits such as those to Tate Modern Art Gallery and Hunterian Museum were both educational and enjoyable. The visually impaired students were taken for touch tours. The talks and lectures arranged for the group were really informative as well as interactive, acquainting us with how the issue of disability is treated in UK and at King’s, and what support is provided in the field of education. A day was scheduled to go to the British Council London where the group met other students with disability and shared their experiences. On one of the days, the students got the opportunity to attend King’s Summer School classes- British Crime Writing, Global Health, and Ancient Philosophy. They also had an inspirational talk by Rob Richardson, Captain of the Men’s British Sitting Volleyball team for the 2012 Paralympics. The students also visited the libraries. Exploration of different places enabled them to have a look at the different facilities available in the buildings, buses, lifts, and outside.
There’s a lot to observe in London, but also, there’s a lot to see and enjoy. They enjoyed the Limbo circus, the London Eye, Madame Tussauds, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, and Buckingham Palace, Hampton Court Palace. They took bus and tube rides, had a walking tour of London, felt the cool breeze blowing over The Thames, calming them as they walked over the bridges. They explored nearby markets and restaurants, tried different varieties of food but finally found a good Indian restaurant to have dinner in.
London, though diversely populated, is a cleaner and quieter place, as everything works in an organized manner. People are not only punctual, but also humble and polite. There is no discrimination on the basis of class or gender. People prefer e-mail over phone calls, and walking over transportation. There are no street beggars asking for money but show their skills to earn money. Students pay their graduation fee in instalments when they start earning. Health is a major concern for them, and a little amount is always deducted from their income to be kept aside for health insurance.
The program served the purpose of cultural exchange as well. Delhi University students enjoyed teaching some basic Hindi words and sentences to the English people, sang Hindi songs, and wore Indian attire on the farewell day. On the same day, King’s College team was amazed to see a presentation on India and its rich culture, shown by DU students. Students also had a talk on UK Higher Education Policy in which they discussed how things work differently in India, and what the two countries should learn from each other. In the UK, there are no reservations of concessions there as they believe in independence. And this is what students learnt during the tour as well- doing things they never thought they could do. They come back with a new attitude to bring about a change in themselves as well as others, realizing how disability causes problems by becoming a social construct.
Report on University of Edinburgh programme
Students arrived in Edinburgh during the late afternoon of the 29th of June. After relaxing for a little while they had dinner and had a briefing of what was to come. The next day was thankfully a rest day. They relaxed for the day and in the evening they hiked up Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano which is now the site of the largest urban park in Europe, to experience a panoramic view of the city.
On Monday the 1st of July, program officially started. Students were greeted by Julia Hermiston, facility member from the office of International Relations at University of Edinburgh. The day was very eventful as students received a welcome speech from the Deputy Vice Principle Mr. Alan Mackay. Following which was a lecture on the Scottish Constitutional Debate provided to us by Prof. Charlie Jeffery (Director of Academy of Governance; Vice Principle Public Policy and Impact).
- After a brief reprise for lunch students taken on a very entertaining student lead campus tour by Ben Morse. Following which was a bus city site seeing tour.
- They were then treated to an Italian dinner with colleagues from the International Office.
- The next day was focused on all the aid provided by the university to the students in Edinburgh. The day included talks from the Student Disability Service, the Counselling Service and the Career Service. These talks were followed by the tour of the main library.
- The program on the 3rd of July focused on the aid provided by the students to other students as well as other members of the society.
- Students had a very interesting Q and A session with the Edinburgh Student’s Union Association. Following that they received a presentation from Disability Convener, who is a student elected to represent that students with disability in the university.
- They also received brief introduction of the new Global Assistances, who are international students appointed to aid other international students in their daily life as a student of the university.
- After a quick lunch students visited eVOLVE, an association which looks into giving aid to people with Dementia. All the students really enjoyed spending time with the elderly patients and the day ended with a cha-cha around one of the tables.
- On the 4th of July students visited the School of Health in Social Sciences to understand more about the UK perspective on disability through an interaction with Sarah Keyes. After which, they visited the Center for Sports and Exercise where the students entered into some friendly competition of bolder climbing after a tour of complex.
- The day ended on a high note as the students got to interact with colleagues from the Edinburgh India institute and got a small taste of home in the food.
- On the 5th of July students received a talk on the accommodation facilities provided for students at Edinburgh University. And the role of the residence’s life. This was followed by the farewell lunch, where all the students and faculty wore traditional dresses and sang songs and gave gifts to show our mutual appreciation for each other. It was followed by a guided tour of the Scottish Parliament.
- The next day was another free day. Delhi University students visited the Edinburgh Castle and learnt about the history of Scotland through a very entertaining and interactive session at Our Dynamic Earth.
The next day, which was The 7th of July, was last day in Edinburgh. Since early morning flight students had nothing much to do but reminisce on the wonderfully educative trip, which they were honored to be a part of.