7 reasons we wouldn’t want to live in an Indian university campus

Edit: I reverted the title to its original one: “7 reasons we wouldn’t…” instead of “7 reasons not to…” as this article is entirely about our opinion and shouldn’t be understood as an advice article.

Edit 2: I had a great discussion with some important people from the uni, who explained many things I would never have guessed otherwise. I changed once again the title from “we wouldn’t study…” to “we wouldn’t want to live…” as I have rightly been pointed out, most of this has nothing to do with the quality of education but with the accommodation and lifestyle. Once again, this is from a Western perspective and experience so it probably wouldn’t apply to Indian students. I have been told that some people have felt offended by my post: I wasn’t aware of some sensitivities and would like to apologise for being hurtful. I have written this as an insight of what we felt living in this campus and discussing with local students, but did not want to hurt anyone, please do not take this personally , I really do not mean it. 

With Simona, we have been staying at Ettimadai campus of Amrita University for almost 3 weeks. It is about one hour away from Coimbatore (if the train isn’t too late), and basically in the middle of nowhere. We had a lot of fun with the local girls we met at the hostel, who were really cool and taught us a lot about Indian life, even dressing us up in the evening! Although we found it fun to discover hostel life, we often talked about why we could never do what they are doing now: voluntarily put ourselves in this kind of campus for 4 years of studies.

Chloe and Simona with local friends
Getting dressed up by a full team of professional saree fitters. These girls are awesome!

Warning: this article has been thought up by Simona and myself during our long complaints about what we don’t like here; what we say here is from the perspective of us as people used to a certain level of comfort and freedom, and if you don’t come from the same background you might not understand why we’re complaining and there’s a possibility you find this insulting. Sometimes we’re being sarcastic; sometimes we believe there’s a real problem behind.
So hey, whether you feel offended or you totally agree, let’s have a discussion about this!

1. Being denied any kind of responsibility

Students at Amrita University stay in “hostels”, but not our kind of warm and welcoming European hostels with a party atmosphere. Here, the word “hostel” refers to the massive buildings with loads of single rooms or shared dorms. First year students share a room between 3 or 4 people, then they get individual rooms. Students have to be back early in their hostels, depending on the year of studies and gender (see picture below), and are not allowed to stay in friends’ rooms after 9:30pm.

Amritapuri Hostel
Here’s the hostel we’re staying at, with nice mountains in the background! Our hostel has 2 of these kind of wings on either side, and in rows from A to H. That’s approximately 800 rooms! We’re on the furthest side and there’s only one entrance to the building so it’s a long walk around…

Students are generally not allowed to go outside of campus. The campus is surrounded by walls 2 metres high, complete with barbed wire on the top. I know, I know, it’s to protect us from the elephants. But still. If students want to go outside, they need to ask several days before, with written permission from their parents.

Basically, we feel like students are treated as children here.

Edit: cut out some unnecessary complaints. Also, I learnt more about Indian culture, and the kids (as people under 18 years old) don’t have the freedom and responsibilities that we have in Europe, also because of safety considerations. I still feel that student are treated like kids instead of adults, but now I kind of understand  why.

2. Rules are more restrictive for girls

As if it weren’t enough to have super-restrictive rules for students, they make it worse for girls! For example, first semester female students have to be back in their hostel by 8pm, while guys are allowed to stay out until 9pm! Also, these first semester girls are not allowed to go outside AT ALL while guys can ask for a pass. Nope, no days outside in the city, no going back home, please stay inside of your hostel for a semester!

Hostel rules at Amritapuri
A sample of hostel rules. Notice how most time restrictions are more restrictive more girls… I know, the picture is terrible, I’ll try to get another one!

Come on, it’s 2016! The campus feels overprotected and super-secured, why wouldn’t girls be allowed to stay outside of their dorms as long as guys can?

Edit: I could make it more “politically correct” but haven’t received any satisfactory explanation on this one so I’ll leave it like this for now. I still cannot understand this kind of rules. Please comment if you can tell my why it is so!

3. Comfort, or rather the lack of

The hostel rooms are very basic. We were lucky enough to get our own attached bathroom, but this is not the case of most girls here (I’ll just switch to speaking about girls as we didn’t experience the “Boys Hostel”!). Our attached bathroom has a western toilet and a shower above it, with no hot water (well it does get tepid around 11am). The other girls have 3 even more basic bathrooms at the end of each corridor, with an Indian toilet and a tap. A tap. No shower for them, they have to bring their own bucket to “take a bath” as they say.

hostel comfort
What you can expect from your hostel room. We didn’t know about the hot water though!

The beds (“cot”) are basically an elevated sheet of metal with a hard mattress on the top. Some Indians seem used to this, many complain about as much as we do.

There are bugs all over the place and they seem to love our room. We realised that despite being beautiful creatures dragonflies are as dumb as moths when they come hitting our lamp in the evening. Trails of ants cross our room and the corridors. We discover new bugs almost daily! And the mosquitoes definitely love our exotic blood.

Yeah, sometimes the bugs we get are pretty rad.
Yeah, sometimes the bugs we get are pretty rad.

Nothing seems to be ever clean, everything is dusty, even when we try our best. Back at the Ashram, we laughed at the “perfectly engineered stone” a woman was using to smack her clothes clean. But when it was our turn to wash our clothes, we were clueless about how to use this wonder of technology. Give me back my washing machine!

Edit: once again, cut out some unnecessary complaints.

4. Currycurrycurrycurrycurrycurrycurrycurry

You name it. Spicy is on the menu for lunch, dinner and breakfast. I managed to keep up with the breakfast for a while when I had big days at work. But now I can’t do it any more, and we skip breakfast most days. The other options are some terribly un-nutritious white bread with super-sweet jam or biscuits and fruit.

It’s not that the food is not good. But for us, it is always the same thing. Curry and rice. I did come to the point where I recognise the different kind of curries and would be excited if my favourite was served, but it is still the same thing. Rice and curry. We’re craving vegetables by themselves, without being drowned in some spicy sauce. I didn’t miss Western food as much in countries where there was more varieties in the dishes, but here I would love to have a “regular” sweet breakfast and some non-spicy food with fresh veggies from time to time.

campus food with papaya and pineapple
The first meal we got on this campus was delicious, but we never had fruits ever since.

In tea and coffee there is always milk, no way no get your hot drink black. I have to deal with my unhappy stomach quite often as a milk-intolerant-and-mostly-vegan person.
We are not the only ones to complain about the food: most girls, especially from other states, complain about the food. They don’t like it; find it too spicy, or not spicy enough.

Last but not least, we students from EPFL miss our beer after a hard day at work! Alcohol is forbidden on campus, and in some occasions we couldn’t imagine what would happen if it were allowed 😉

5. “Modest” clothing

In Ettimadai campus, the dress code is more relaxed than at the Ashram. However, women are still expected to cover their legs and shoulders outside of the hostel. Inside the hostel, many girls seem to spend days in their pyjamas and never leave the hostel; I would do the same if I had to put on “appropriate” clothes to go outside!

For the guys, it seems to be acceptable that they wear shorts, and some of these look more like underpants! Once again, even though the rules are same for everyone, the guys seem to be freer than the girls in clothing options. The girls complain about their uniform, they say it is not comfortable.

Indian in puffer jacket at 24°C
It was funny to notice that when the temperature drops, Indian pull out their puffer jackets. Even if “cold” is 24°C! That day, we were so happy to feel cool!

The problem with the clothing is the heat. If there wasn’t any dress code, it would make the heat more bearable. And if it wasn’t that hot, I would still be annoyed by having these rules but I wouldn’t complain too much about having to cover myself up.

6. Gender separation

I’m glad I came with a girl-friend here, but we heard many stories about girls coming to uni with their best (guy) friend, and not being able to sit on besides another without being scolded! One girl told us about the “one laptop” rule, which is the distance to be kept between friends of opposite genders.

Simona and guys in the background at Anokha
The moment we experience the most “mixity” between genders was at Anokha festival (see video below!). Girls and guys were casually hanging out and dancing together. We still laughed when noticing the physical proximity with guys 🙂 Also, an hour later (around 8:30pm actually), guards walked through the crowd blowing on their whistles and yelling “Girls back to hostels!”. As usual, the guys were allowed to stay outside and have fun later in the evening.

The girls also told us about arranged marriages. They told us, defeated, that their parents will find a suitable husband for them soon. Our friends don’t seem happy about it, rather resigned. Next generation might be freer to marry whoever they chose in a “love marriage” at least they hope it for their children.

7. The great Firewall of Amrita

Once we managed to get internet access, we discovered there was a great censorship on websites classified as “entertainment and arts”. That means no ukulele tabs, no “opinion” websites talking about the news, no sports coaching websites… I couldn’t even access my bank or the Creative Commons website when I was looking up open source licensing! Surprisingly, we could still access Facebook, YouTube and eBay… but not Skype, WhatsApp pictures, etc.

censorship at Amrita university
Seriously, not even this website about Open Source licensing? I am very disappointed…

As I had to go to IT to ask them to unlock my bank’s website, I asked them what the firewall was for: “to block porn”. Okay. Even though I find it abusive, I could understand the block on “entertainment”. But arts?! What is that for?

Anyway, the wifi often happens to be not working at all, and with the frequent and long power cuts we have other problems too.

So these were our main reasons for definitely not wanting to study here for an extended period of time! I hope you are not too shocked or upset about what you just read! Please feel free to comment 🙂

Edit: more than feel free, please do comment if you can explain any of these things that we couldn’t, or if I said something very offending without realising it!

6 thoughts on “7 reasons we wouldn’t want to live in an Indian university campus”

  1. Hey Chloe, good post and quite exhaustive too. Interesting to see that your experience is kind of similar to mine.

    Bangalore campus (at which I’m located) seems a bit more relaxed than yours in some aspects, and more restricted in others. I was told all the rules I would have to abide by when studying at Amrita well before coming here, so I had some time to prepare. However, nothing could prepare me for the bureaucracy and weird rules that this university enforces to keep their students “safe” and “happy”.

    I have a couple of points to add.

    1. Dirty

    I don’t remember the ashram & campus at Amritapuri being so dirty, in fact it was rather clean. However, the Bangalore campus is such a big joke. Trash is lying around everywhere and the stray dogs run around in packs (at least at night). The campus is walled on all sides and the gates are guarded, yet those dirty ass dogs (which the students themselves don’t dare to touch) still abound. I know the trash is not solely the uni’s responsibility, as the students leave most stuff lying on the floor. However, they aren’t even putting in any effort to clean up the campus collectively and teach the students any lessons to improve India (waste management…). Maybe that’s a foreign perspective, but it’s still something that they could have taken into account.

    2. Strange

    The campus looks really nice (apart from the trash, see above). I have to admit that. However, the students still play sports on dusty fields and courts. This wouldn’t be a problem, but I don’t see the point of making the whole campus look nice while the facilities suck. They could have provided a nice football pitch and some decent cricket/basketball courts. I’m not saying Amrita should spend its money on that. But if you’re going to have a couple gardeners run around 365 days a year, you might as well invest in some decent sport accommodation too (the badminton court looks splendid though).

    3. Fake

    At one point the University Grants Commission (UGC) dropped by our campus to see how the university actually functions (I guess, not entirely sure why they dropped by). I know that every institution “dresses up” nicely and wants too look as good as possible to the people that control them. However, Amrita really took it to the next level. They hired a ton of flowers, started removing beehives (that weren’t really bothering anyone) and hired decent uniforms for the gate guards. That wasn’t so bad tho. What they also did was give every student a free gate pass (to spend one day outside) so no one would complain to the UGC while they visited. Welcome bribery. Furthermore, on the day of the UGC visit all students were to be formally dressed and no one was allowed to leave the campus.

    One more thing that annoyed me was that my mail not arriving. I ordered something from Amazon and the gate guys denied my package to enter campus, on multiple occasions. How the f*ck am I to receive something if my orders just get denied before I can come pick them up..?

    If I come up with something else I’ll try to post it, this is most negative things for now. But I don’t really want to shame Amrita too much. There are a number of things that they did really well and I feel you could mention too:

    1. Before starting classes

    The staff from the International Office and miss Deepika from Bangalore campus were most helpful before my friend and I came to India. Everyone knows getting an Indian visa is no joke and can take a lot of time and effort. However, the staff at Amrita was very helpful and friendly and truly put in a lot of work to get us to India as easily and prepared as possible. We furthermore had a few discussions with someone from the International Office in Amritapuri on what we should/could expect of India and how to best prepare for that. I thought that was very nice and really helpful.

    2. Helpfulness

    Yes, this is India, so most people will be helpful anyways. However, the staff and personnel at Amrita never seems to shy away from lending a hand with particular and peculiar (maybe Western) issues. I can’t thank all the staff members enough for all the times they’ve helped me resolve some stupid issue. Oh and my room gets cleaned every day for some reason, it’s too often but it’s nice haha.

    Long ass post but just my two cents. Lemme know whether you agree.

  2. Its fake i studied there for 3 yrs … There is restrictns but it is better than any other campus in south india espcly tamilnadu kerala region

    1. Hi Lakshmi! Thank you for reading my article. As I said, most of this is what we experienced as foreigners (although you cannot change the facts). I would be curious to know about other campus if you have some experience to share!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *