The Year that was at SaiU

It has been a momentous year for most students. After almost two years of being confined within the four walls of their homes, with the mobile phone and laptops taking centre stage in their lives, they made the transition to attending physical classes. Oh, what a joy it was, to be in the same physical space as the teacher and fellow-students, to just turn around to talk to others and to walk up to the teacher with queries at the end of classes! We feel you. However, for us, the first ever BA/BSc batch of SaiU (2021-2023/2024), it has been a stupendous year. For, we will always be the ones who took the first leap of faith to join a brand-new University with new ideas, new offerings and a new vision, brave enough to share our desires and dreams with the aim of transforming the tertiary education space!

That the SaiU experience was starkly different from college life elsewhere in the country was apparent from Day 1. We had a Student Government, a representative committee of five in place before the academic year began. The Student Government was the bridge between the students and the administration that helped us play a significant part in shaping the institution.

The first semester began online after a consultation Vice Chancellor Jamshed Bharucha held with us and our parents on the desirability of face-to-classes during a pandemic. The disappointment was intense.  But the wide variety of topics that we explored and our interaction week after week with experts in different parts of the world, kept us engaged. 

We became more familiar with Zoom’s breakout rooms with group discussions and peer feedback becoming a regular feature of the classes. We exchanged notes on how our beliefs and ideas about anything and everything were challenged. We even managed to collaborate for online class presentations. This was different from school. For one, examinations were out and so, no cramming at the last minute. But then the periodic assignments, quizzes and presentations demanded more. However, it was not till we moved to the city campus did we realize just how different our experiences are going to be.

About a couple months into the second semester, we were all set to move into the temporary accommodation across the city campus for face-to-face classes.  We had organized ice-breaker sessions online to get better acquainted with each other in preparation for this day. Yet, it was not without trepidation that we walked into our rooms.  For some of us, it was a long way from home.  There was the added worry of not being familiar with the local language and food. The anxieties dissipated no sooner than in the first week and we laughed and cried and rebelled and saw each other through. The late nights of singing and dancing and intense discussions on life itself, the evenings in the sports field, and the visits to the malls and sleeping in on lazy weekends soon became a part of life.

A lasting image of this time will however, be the passionate discussions and debates that spilled out of the classrooms into the corridors and into the rooms on issues ranging from mental health, to international warfare from climate change to diplomacy and human rights. We had to constantly revisit our ideas and opinions, for, week after week, not only did we have to read of and listen to speakers from across the world, but also critically examine these issues for the class activities and written submissions. For most of us, it was our first acquaintance with research essays and pop-up quizzes. What a terrific learning experience it has been!

The two months on campus has not quite been enough to implement all our plans. There are a host of activities that the 13 clubs we have formed, ranging from the literary to the entrepreneurship, from the fitness to the astronomy club and from the debate to the dance club, are dying to organize. There is a lot waiting to happen. Currently, we are readying for the beginning of a new academic year with a week-long orientation that will include adventure sports activities, heritage walks, nature trips and city attractions visits. Join us at Sai U for an education for life!

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