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Student/Faculty Exchange Program Sept/Oct 2013
Student/Faculty Exchange Program Sept/Oct 2013

Guteskolan – Orchid

A delegation of 13 students and 2 teachers visited Pune on an exchange program from 25thSeptember to 14th October’13. The group came under a course named ‘Youth Culture’. Their focus area of study was intercultural studies, visiting youth organizations, youth in politics, understand the matters of concern for the Indian youth, to know how the youth here spends their spare time. They were from Grade 12 and in the age group of 17 to 19 years.

A comprehensive program was planned for them which covered most of their objectives.

In order to get acclimatized to the new place, culture, surroundings, people, the group stayed at a reputed hotel for the first four days. They then moved into Host families (TOS students of Grade IX hosted them) as this is one of the best ways of getting a firsthand experience of a country’s culture, values, traditions and customs.

They soon become a part of the family and it was wonderful to see the bonding between the kids and the other family members, the love and affection that was showered by our dear parents, the yummy tiffin boxes that was packed diligently each day by the host mum for their guest child.

The study visit began with an Orientation and a culture seminar by Lakshmi di and Baishaki di followed by a tea party with the host families so that they could interact with each other informally before moving into their homes.

A few lectures were planned for them by our TOS teachers, namely on Indian Religion, Indian Politics and Indian Economics and the role of youth in these areas. They also had an Indian dance session, tabla session and arts session with the respective faculty. They also visited the Gurudwara.

A few visits to various organizations were also scheduled, such as visit to Indradhanushya a centre for environment awareness, Alert, an NGO working for environmental issues and Smile an NGO working with women to make them self-sufficient, CYDA, Cente for Youth Development and Activities, Deep Griha Society an independent charitable organisation working to better the lives of people living in the slums of Pune, Mahaveer Nagar where an NGO Samyak, registered as a Communication and Resource Centre on gender, masculinities, health and development,  work closely with the inhabitants of this community on various issues.

The objective behind these visits was to get an overview as well as interact with youth volunteers working for the various causes in India.

They also visited two schools, i.e. DAV and Modern School (NCL campus) where they interacted with the students of 11th and 12th Grades. These visits were really fruitful as they got to meet students closer to their age and could draw comparisons between a typical Swedish student and an Indian student. The Modern school students presented a cultural program and made a presentation about India in Swedish language which was truly appreciable. The DAV students enthusiastically interacted with them and there was a good discussion on some burning issues which were common to both the countries.

The group also had a glimpse of the Navratra festival and participated in the Dandiya Program wearing traditional costumes. They were also part of the Joy of Giving Week where they took part in many activities.

The two teachers, Herman and Anders accompanied the TOS staff to an overnight staff retreat to Chinmaya Vibhooti where they whole heartedly and with full energy and enthusiasm participated in all the activities.

The group also got to see an experimental play which was presented by a team of amazing women comprising of teachers, artists, social-workers, students which was a culmination of a forty hours workshop - ‘Girls, Get Onstage’ an initiative started by Orchestrated Q’Works through Open Space.

The performance took the form of various live installations placed along a walk-through. The idea was to put the audience in a museum of stories – some real, some untold – where they can find a piece of themselves – like the time they fought for someone else and realized how strong they were, the time they were lost and needed help to be found and the times when they looked in to the mirror and didn’t know who looked back. This was followed with an open interaction with the audience.

The group had a closure seminar with Lakshmi di where they shared their experiences of this visit and she helped them to see it in a context of an intercultural exchange of ideas, values, culture and tradition. The group focused on three main points that is KNOWLEDGE, SKILL and ATTITUDE which are the base of any exchange program.

On the day of their departure from Pune, it was heart rending to see the group bid a tearful adieu to their host families and vice versa. They promised to keep in touch and be friends forever.

After a 2 day stay in Mumbai where they also visited the Dharavi Slums to get a peek into the economy generation ventures which is one of the USP of the biggest slum in Asia, the group left for Sweden with mixed emotions, varied impressions, and lot of food for thought. We are sure that this exchange program will sensitize them to a different culture which will be beneficial in some way in their future life, help to shape their personality and open many doors in the future.