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Pursuing College In India Instead Of The West Is The Real Culture Shock

Pursuing College In India Instead Of The West, Is The Real Culture Shock

With friends and class mates leaving for college abroad, life changes for the ones left behind.

Townie ˈtaʊni' (noun): A person who lives in South Mumbai, usually considered a snob
“Oh my god, she booked an Uber, what a townie!”

We all live in a bubble. We make our place in it, decorate it, and do everything in our power to protect it. Despite all our efforts, we don’t realize that we are merely delaying the inevitable. My bubble didn't just burst, it exploded. You could say it was my wake up call.

I graduated from the Cathedral and John Connon School, and jumped ship to Jai Hind College. During this time, I was introduced to something I didn't know I would experience in my own country - culture shock. Culture shock is the absolute horror I faced when I realized the kind of people I've grown up with don’t make up the macrocosm called Mumbai.

Everyday was Christmas before they left for university abroadEveryday was Christmas before they left for university abroad

I was used to going to school everyday at a fixed time, and having a fixed routine. My closest friends were a car ride away. English was my language of communication. But all that changed once I moved to college and my friends left for exotic locations in the US, UK and Australia. They were now a plane ride and a time zone away, studying in universities abroad having the time of their lives, while I was stuck here with no friends and no life. It felt as though they were doing so much more with their time, and I was in exactly the same place I had been from the very start. I didn't have cool themed parties to host every weekend, I didn't have any tropical spring break to look forward to, I wasn’t eating Instagram-worthy food everyday, and I certainly didn't have a new boy in my bed each week. And when my boring life showed even a glimpse of excitement, I couldn't call my friends, (not immediately at least) to tell them about it because of the time difference. However, when I finally understood what the next 3 years of my life were going to be like, I realized that accepting this change was my only option.

In college, we were informed of our classes the day before via a WhatsApp group, and the timings couldn’t have been more erratic. Classes started anytime between 8.30am and 4pm, and the funny thing was that other than me, nobody seemed to mind! It was as though the thrill of unknown class timings gave my classmates some sort of adrenaline rush that I could never understand. I always fought for morning classes in order to free up the rest of the day, whereas my classmates didn't see eye to eye with my logic and much preferred afternoon classes, as it allowed them to sleep in. Little did I know the backlash I would face. “It’s easy for you, it doesn't take you 2 hours to reach. For an 8.30 class we have to wake up at 5.30. Everyone doesn't come in a car like you, princess”. All of a sudden I felt attacked because of my geographical location, and from then on I was branded 'that townie snob'.

Breaking language barriersBreaking language barriers

My choice of language did not go down too well either, because a majority were Hindi speaking. They’d crack the funniest jokes, have the most serious discussions and the most important conversations, all in Hindi. I felt out of place. It’s not like I didn't understand them, or that I looked down on them. I just preferred English and felt I out of place. 

However, after weeks of social isolation I realized that I had to let go of my inhibitions and mingle with people as much as I could. So I did. I stayed back to help with college festival work, started talking more to people in my class, and tried to be as social as possible. At first I was apprehensive. Everyone in college seemed to have formed their group of friends, and their openness with each other intimidated me. However, I still tried to involve myself in their conversations; and the more I did, the more they opened up to me. I made friends I would never have imagined from all over the city and country; and despite the difference in geographical location, I had so much in common with them. Not to sound cheesy, but they really were a breath of fresh air and I had finally found a reason to attend college.

My babes from the 'burbsMy babes from the 'burbs

In my stream, college festivals are very common, and since everyone attended them, so did I. The scary part? They were all in the ‘burbs, which meant using the faithful railroad - a mode of transport I had never explored. My first ever fest was in a college pretty far away, and lasted for 3 days. That meant 6 train journeys, and a whole lot of dread. But I braved it well and even managed to learn some things about train travel for my future endeavours - finding the women’s compartment involves a lot of walking, slow trains and fast trains don't differ in speed (just number of stops), weird men dressed as women will touch you and you have to let them to avoid drama, and just because you have a ticket, it doesn't mean you get to sit. A part of me wonders what my school friends would think of my newfound mode of transport. Would they judge me? Would I still be accepted into their bubble?

Train travel. Image source: novinite.comTrain travel. Image source:

The past few months have made me realize how sheltered I was, and how much I am yet to experience and learn. Sure, I may not be able to join a sorority and live in the same bubble (in a different country). Being in a whole new environment fantasizing about my foreign-educated friends’ lives is coming to a close. I have a solid friends circle here and look forward to attending college. I know more about my city than I ever did. I’m more accepting of differences. Sure, I’m still `that townie snob’, but now at least I'm 'that townie snob who enjoys college.' I'm one of the gang.

Spot the townie snob!Spot the townie snob!




Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of

By Mallika Jhaveri
Photographs by Mallika Jhaveri