The academic year 2010 kicked off on Thursday, 18 August when the first year students began their introduction to school life in the Mahindra College. Assisted as always by a volunteer group of second year students who, having arrived the previous week, were ready to provide a supportive and informative addition to the general orientation process.
Settling in a group of 117 new students of 43 nationalities and numerous religious and ethnic backgrounds in no easy task. Added to the 96 second year students, who themselves represent 41 nationalities, makes the group a widely diverse student body, probably one of the largest coming together anywhere on Indian soil. Added to this group are the 31 staff which itself includes Spanish, American, Australian, German and British representatives, a general climate of diversity in thought, culture and opinion is assured.
So how is this all best achieved? Faculty and students have a general common perspective. So the orientation program for new students, whilst essentially led by faculty who inform and assist on subject choices, residential life, IT requirements, admin procedures etc, volunteer second year students are around to ensure that everyone knows where they should be at any given time, that activities are abundant to facilitate and strengthen the bonding process and that, wherever possible, no-one is left behind or discluded from this essential group experience.
The gentle rainfall and cool climate of the monsoon month of August helps lower the stress levels and the support offered ensures that initially good choices are made in terms of subject selection. The one month trial period allows for any changes to be made in subject choice and scheduling although this does provide an initially difficult situation for faculty as students shop around for their "best" subject choices.
Interspersed with blood tests, engraving of names on personal laptops, Ipods, phones etc, a number of activities to acclimatize the many students coming in from overseas include a 2 hour hike around the local neighboring lands, a Swedish theme dinner, a cultural trip to Pune, several birthday celebrations, advisor / advisee meetings and a few chill out spots set up with music and games to help provide suitable moments to decompress during this intense 4-day program.
All in all another college academic year kicks into gear with the enthusiasm and excitement common to this unique little campus lost in the hills of Maharashtra.