Indian students abroad seeking out other Indians is self-destructive: a tweet that went viral



Spread your wings and broaden your horizons — that’s what most rational people all over the world want to do when they go to a different country. For students especially, a global, or at least a contrarian, exposure is an education by itself. It’s a shakeup, a breaking out of comfort zone, and an opportunity to be a part of a bigger community, bigger than the one they have left behind. But, anecdotally, there are stories of Indian students choosing to be ghettoized in the name of community building. Desi “associations” and “societies” being formed to celebrate an occasional festival or cultural event is more than welcome — but they cannot be laying down lifestyle guidelines or creating an ecosystem that hustles you to “stick to your roots”.

Which is why a recent ‘piece of advice’ tweet by Shreya Pattar — who leads a Dubai-based content and digital marketing company — has triggered a rather compelling virtual discussion. On the social media platform X (formerly Twitter), she posted that Indian students planning to move abroad for higher education should steer clear of universities which have a sizeable number of compatriots. Here’s why. “A big Indian community of students doesn’t come with a ‘homely’ feeling. It comes with toxic Indian patterns: too much drama, lack of professionalism, no good role models, no leadership or responsibility towards juniors, self-centred behaviour, ‘group-ism’, back bitching, no seriousness towards the future,” she wrote, adding, “If you plan to move out of the country, make sure you are also staying away from that mindset, attitude, and nature of people… You shouldn’t need such people around you to ‘feel at home’. And if you DO, then might as well just not move abroad.”

Given how sensitive most Indians are when it comes to dropping even a hint of racial stereotyping, it’s surprising — surprising in a good way — that many of the reactions are eye to eye with Pattar’s observations. It’s a big hurrah, people realizing — and admitting to the fact — that choosing to be ghettoized and getting caught in a vicious loop of identity politics is utterly unproductive.

But the ascription of [being the harbinger of] ‘toxic patterns’ attributed en masse to an entire nation is somewhat reductive. Drama, unprofessionalism, group-ism etc — all of these have been bandied around as Indian traits; while they may be largely true, they need to be recognized in a certain context, whether it is sociological, economic, ethnical, attitudinal… or a combination of two or three or more. And despite everything, there persists a resilience among Indian diaspora students which can be elevated to being more front facing and proactive, rather than inward looking and reactive.

The reactions to the tweet probably beget the question: when there is acknowledgement, why is there no call to action? Surely there can be better ways out of the situation other than avoiding proximity with fellow Indians?

Now that a conversation has been drummed up, let’s hope this goes a long way in walking the talk.

In terms of numbers, India accounts for the second-largest tranche of students (China is first) who go abroad to study. According to the Bureau of Immigration (BoI) in 2023, the figure stood at around 7.65 lakhs, and there has been steady uptick in numbers over the years. – The writer is Consulting Editor of


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.