"This university has seen students from many countries. But not from the United States. That vacuum was filled when Megan Elizabeth Fenton from Penn-Yann, New York, walked into its portals.
She has travelled all the way to Coimbatore to pursue a master's degree at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU). Megan registered as a full-time student for the post-graduate degree programme in agronomy on Wednesday.
While the movement of Indian students to foreign shores, especially the U.S., for higher education is on the rise with every academic year, the reverse is not comparable to it. Even some of the students who come from the country on exchange programmes do so for attending short-term courses.
In this scenario, the girl, an agricultural science graduate from Cornell University, the U.S., has come to India on her own initiative.
The university has nearly 30 students from countries such as Africa, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Iran and Iraq. Though their entry began more than four decades ago, there has not been a single student from the U.S.
According to Vice-Chancellor P. Murugesa Boopathi, it is a matter of great pride. “It goes to show that the infrastructure and other facilities in TNAU are on a par with international universities. A student coming here from the U.S. is unique in the sense that even with the best facilities available in her own country, she has chosen to pursue it here”.
While those from other countries choose to study at TNAU for better academic and research prospects, the case with Megan is different. She was one among a group of students who came on a visit to India under the aegis of the International Agricultural Rural Development (IARD) programme of Cornell University and TNAU two years ago when she was a student of agricultural science in the former.
Inspired by the research and extension activities of TNAU, she decided to pursue any kind of programme here. Owner of 400-acre of agricultural land which Megan manages with a partner, she has both theoretical and practical knowledge of the subject. She also worked as an extension worker for a year before applying to TNAU. Her goal, however, is to become a teacher in international agriculture. Having decided her career chart, Megan took it upon herself to get admission in TNAU. “My most favourite teachers were those who have had practical experience. So, I believe that my work on my farm and also as an extension worker will help me be a good teacher. ”.
“I did not know where to begin. I sent an e-mail to the Dean of Post-Graduate Studies sharing my desire. He advised me on the application procedures and also gave me the provision to join the course mid-way,” Megan says.
According to Dean C. Udayasooriyan, Megan will be in class along with other PG students pursuing agronomy. Since she has joined mid-way, she will begin with the second semester and then do her first semester with the next batch of students. The second year will be research-oriented, both in the field and in the laboratory.
Megan has to obtain 55 credits from the papers she chooses to pursue under the Choice-based Credit System and her research work put together.
She was chosen by a Recognition Committee, set up to select such students who do not have to undergo an entrance test or other such selection formalities. Students from foreign countries will be admitted only if they apply through the embassy, Indian Council of Agricultural Research, or Indian Council for Cultural Relations.
A thoroughly ‘scared yet excited' Megan is all set to start her course. She reached Coimbatore on January 14 to see Pongal being celebrated. She is yet to come out of the euphoria of the three-day extended celebrations with a family of her IARD Indian counterpart Priyadarshini Murugan in Sulur.
She vows to go back to her country with the knowledge of agriculture, the Tamil language and the culture of the Tamils."