Thursday, February 8, 2024

Looking beyond headlines on death of Indian student abroad. Stay safe while studying abroad

During the past few weeks, we are seeing headlines about Indian students studying abroad and there is a a growing concern over a few cases of assaults. The click-bait headlines like this speak of yet another incident: "Another Indian Student Assaulted, At Least 5 Students Dead in a Month." 

Some feel that this "alarming surge in violence against Indian students studying overseas" demands immediate attention, investigation, and coordinated efforts to ensure the safety of international students.

Over the past few decades, there has been a significant increase in the number of Indian students pursuing higher education abroad. The allure of diverse academic opportunities, exposure to different cultures, and the potential for a global career have driven countless students to international shores. Countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand have become popular destinations for Indian students seeking quality education.

However, alongside the benefits of studying abroad, these students often face various challenges, including cultural adjustment, language barriers, and, increasingly, safety concerns. The latest string of assaults has brought the spotlight onto the vulnerabilities that Indian students may encounter while pursuing their academic dreams in foreign lands.

The tragic loss of at least five Indian students in the span of a month raises questions about the safety measures in place and the need for a collective response. Each death represents not just a statistic but a profound human tragedy, leaving grieving families and shattered communities in its wake.  

There is no single pattern in these deaths

Understanding the root causes of these assaults is crucial for implementing effective preventive measures. Factors such as xenophobia, racial discrimination, and inadequate support systems for international students may contribute to their vulnerability. 

  • Vivek Saini - A 25-year-old Indian student in the US was hammered to death by a drug addict at a convenience store in Georgia where he worked. 
  • Shreyas Reddy Beniger - A19-year-old student was found dead in Ohio last week. Though Beniger's parents live in Hyderabad, he held an American passport. Authorities had ruled out foul play in the case. 
  • Neel Acharya - Was found dead in the Purdue University campus hours after his mother had reported him missing. The County Coroner said in a press release that no foul play is suspected in the Neel’s death 
  • Akul Dhawan - An Indian-American was discovered dead outside the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) recently. According to the Champaign County Coroner, the initial findings of the autopsy suggested he died from hypothermia. 
  • Sameer Kamath -  Kamath, a US Citizen pursuing a doctorate at Purdue University was found dead in a nature preserve recently. Authorities have ruled his death as suicide, saying that it was from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head

Additionally, cultural misunderstandings, lack of awareness, and insufficient communication between local authorities and the international student community can exacerbate the risks faced by students studying abroad.

Ensuring the safety of international students is a shared responsibility that involves collaboration between host countries, educational institutions, and the students themselves. Local law enforcement agencies must take swift and decisive action against perpetrators of violence, sending a clear message that such acts will not be tolerated. Educational institutions should enhance support services, including cultural orientation programs and counseling, to assist students in navigating their new environments.

Here are a few basic tips for those studying abroad 

  1. Know your surroundings and neighborhood – talk to locals for tips 
  2. Share your tips and experiences with fellow students 
  3. Do not be desperate for that extra dollar 
  4. If you really must work outside campus, take safety precautions 
  5. Mental health is a real issue – try to lend a helping to peer and fellow students

It is crucial for the international community to unite in creating a safer environment for all students pursuing education beyond their borders. The collective responsibility of governments, educational institutions, and the students themselves is paramount in ensuring that such incidents do not become a recurring nightmare for the global student community. By addressing the root causes, fostering awareness, and promoting collaboration, we can strive towards a future where every student, regardless of their nationality, can pursue education in a secure and nurturing environment.

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