Chances are you picked up several new Indian students at the airport who traveled to your city together. “Together” is normal in their culture. The extreme individualism they will discover in the U.S. seems so strange to these new students.
In the U.S. university setting, Indian students will discover that the same academic competitiveness they are used to at home, though with more options for average students. Furthering education in India is merit based, but India does not have the number of education alternatives we have here. U.S. university classrooms are increasingly using projects where students learn to work together to solve problems or complete projects. Indian students are comfortable with that as long as they get to work with their friends. If they have to work alongside other nationalities (which is increasingly the case), it is not so easy. But the goal of such activities is to prepare students for the usual work environment.
The lack of personal transportation that most Indian students have when new here is an issue to be overcome quickly. In fact, this is a wonderful outreach to these students—helping them with trips to the store and for entertainment on weekends. Indian students are looking for relationships.
Inviting small groups of Indian students into your home is a wonderful way to help the students feel more “at home.” India is a relational culture, and being comfortable in a home with good food and friendly people feels so right and normal to these students.
Indian students who come to the U.S. are often lacking religious interest. However, they all come from a culture where there are thousands of ways to worship God, so they readily accept your practice of Christianity just as they accept the multitude of ways their friends and family worship. Facing the exclusive claims of Christ at a heart-level creates a problem in their worldview. Most simply choose not to go there and create a problem for themselves. Prayer is the key for the Spirit of God to be leading in their hearts toward openness.
To get their attention and create a desire for Christ in their own lives, Indian students must see the reality of Christ in our lives and see the practical (often supernatural) difference he makes living in us. Having seen the reality of Christ in us, in our marriages, in our response to difficulties, in how we cope with the ups and downs of life, Indian students have a natural curiosity and interest. But for them to see that difference, we must spend significant amounts of time with them and live transparently before them.
Principles cited in this blog: New Indian students face many adjustment issues to life in the U.S.; ISI staff and volunteers can help. Spiritual witness is a result of prayer and the Spirit creating a hunger and thirst for the difference they see that Christ makes in a life.
Application for ISI ministry: We have many points of intervention to help new Indian students if they ask us to do so or respond to our offers of help. Making that offer is a significant first step. Then praying for the students and living transparently before them are things the Spirit can use.
Next blog topic: Issues Muslim students face in studying in the U.S.
Doug Shaw with Derrah Jackson