Kolkata is slowly turning into an education hub for students from countries like the US, South Korea and Japan. These young people have discovered heady pre-professional educational opportunities in the city amid the bedlam, the serpentine alleys, the careening buses, taxis, rickshaws and trams.
"Kolkata is my adopted home. It's overwhelming," says Mai Yaginuma (25), who is pursuing homeopathy at the National Institute of Homeopathy, Salt Lake. She's here from Sendai, Japan, since 2011 through an ICCR programme because her country doesn't offer a degree course in homeopathy. Her friend Chie Toyohara (22) happily introduces herself in accented Bengali, "Ami Tokyo theke eshechhi. Aamar naam Chie."
Among others into professional education or internships is Kiara Machuca, intern with Destiny Foundation/Reflection in Lake Gardens. "I was told that Kolkata is a history lesson. Now I know it's much more. The Kolkata experience changes the way you view life," avers the 20-year-old US citizen of Mexican origin. The student of marketing and Spanish from Santa Clara University is here under the Global Women's Leadership Network programme. "I was surprised to see how safe the city is for women. Buses are fine even if you don't have space. I have seen so much, yet so little. I don't think I could get enough of this incredible place," says Kiara, who has discarded her jeans for a more "comfortable" salwar kameez.
The delight of riding a bus (route number 101) or the trademark Ambassador yellow taxi through the potholed streets never ceases to intrigue.
Sudeshna Chatterjee, director of the South-Asia Development Centre, is forever trying to make them feel at home. "We started this English training course from this year and tapped the East Asian market really well. Some of our students wish to stay on if they find good jobs. Kolkata's appeal, it seems, is growing."
Last year, CNN reported 3,000 foreigners having listed with a job site, seeking work in India, including Kolkata.
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