Singmila Shimrah (right), a
Fulbright student from India, who is working on her master’s
degree in international relations in the US, and Sheena Hall
(left), a Gilman scholar, who spent five months in India
studying Indian politics and culture.
For Singmila Shimrah, a Naga from Ukhrul in Manipur, studying in
the US is a "dream come true" and for Sheena Hall, an
African-American, her sojourn in India was a "cultural shock" to
Yet both swear by their respective experiences in the other's
homeland and how it has helped them see things from a new
Shimrah and Hall shared their experiences pf studying in the US
and India respectively with foreign media at an event here to mark
the International Education Week to highlight the importance of
international exchange programmes to promote mutual understanding.
For Shimrah, a Fulbright student from India working on her
master's degree in international relations at George Mason
University's school of conflict analysis and resolution, it is a
dream come true not only for her, but for her parents and her
"...my mom, she never got to go to school because she had to drop
out to take care of her younger siblings. And my dad, he studied
only till tenth standard. He dreamed to study, but he could never
make it," she said at an interaction with foreign media here.
"And I am here fulfilling my dreams, my parents' dreams, my region
and my country's dream."
Shimrah, who has for almost eight years worked with women, with
street and working children and with the youth in the
conflict-torn area hopes to "be a peace builder and a voice of the
voiceless and be a part in bringing change," when she returns back
"What I love most about America," she said, "is they see me for
who I am, not because of my background, not because of my parents,
not because of the life that I have lived. They see my potential."
Sheena Hall, a Gilman scholar, who spent five months in India
studying Indian politics and culture in Hyderabad and also
learning a little bit of Hindi language, said "when I first got
there, it was more of a culture shock."
"I didn't really know how to handle certain situations. So I think
that India was a big growth part in my life," she said.
"It helped me grow, and it helped me learn how to handle stressful
situations and really how to put myself out there in anything that
I do. So that was a great experience," said Hall who is currently
studying politics and Arabic language at Howard University here.
If Shimrah was surprised by the individualism when she came to
America, Hall "was surprised by the community base, how everyone
was kinder" when she went to India.
"Another thing I was surprised by was the misconceptions that
Indians had when I was India of us Americans. And also the fact
that a lot of people - they didn't know much about African
Americans in India" she said.
"And I was also happy that I could share with them what it was
like to be African American in America and that they do exist and
kind of give them the view of equality that I feel when I'm in
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)