My Language Barrier

When did you get interested in your current field of study?

I got interested in the field of Architecture when I was looking at options to pursue for undergraduate studies. I wasn’t very passionate about the subject at that point, it was more of a convenient path I took because I had an interest to pursue something in the creative field(arts) along with something technical and this seemed like a good fit.

Tell us your thoughts on the coursework. How approachable were your instructors? Did you feel the coursework served to increase or decrease your interest in the subject? Were the assignments helpful in furthering your knowledge and interest of the subject?

The coursework was tedious. It is standard with Architecture programs. They involve a lot of manual work but I was also looking for some intellectual growth. Unfortunately, the instructors were uninterested in the subject and in teaching so very soon I lost interest in the subject. This was right in the first year itself when instructors would not show up or they would come and read from the textbook. In one particular case the instructor taught in the local language (telugu)  which I could not understand and due to the language barrier I did not follow anything. And this other instructor who taught us structural mechanics would come to class and deliberately just touch on the basics, that was not enough for the semester exams, so that the students would be forced to attend his tuitions after class. Some of the assignments were interesting but soon I lost interest.  These assignments were creative design studios which were not based on rote learning. Students were given two design projects each semester and the teachers would comment on the progress of the designs on a regular basis before they were presented to a jury of about two -three practicing architects at the end of the semester.

When you began your coursework, did you feel you were as comfortable with the prerequisites as your classmates? If you felt more comfortable than your peers did with the prerequisites, can you think of why this was the case? If you felt less comfortable than your peers did with the prerequisites, were any efforts made (by you and your colleagues, or the course instructor) to remedy this gap?

I would say all of us started on the same page with the same basic knowledge of the subject and it was new for all of us. But maybe I think I probably was more comfortable than most because all the textbooks were in English which I had a good grasp of, but many of my classmates came from state schools and did have some difficulty understanding the text. Now that I think of it, the top 10 in the class were all those who had  good command over English. There were no efforts made to remedy the gap by the faculty. For some assignments we did work in groups, maybe that helped to understand the text better for some.

Do you feel that the administration, both academic and non-academic, is responsive to the needs of the student body regarding basic amenities, fees, curriculum etc? Do you feel that this responsiveness is restricted to certain groups?

In general they were not very responsive. They were very laid back and did not attend to any of the issues students were facing. Do not think responsiveness was restricted to any particular group.

Do you feel that attempts to improve the academic environment were dealt with in a reasonable manner, or framed as destructive acts and discarded?

There was no attempt made to improve the academic environment. Outside of the curriculum nothing was organized for academic growth. After a point all of us just came to college for attendance and to do well in the semester end exams. It is interesting to note that very few students who graduated with me are still sticking with architecture as a profession, most have moved onto other fields.

How were your interactions with your peers? Do you feel like your demographic* identity played a role in these? If yes, would you classify it as harassment? If yes, did you seek redressal from your institute and what were your experiences doing so?

Most of the people in my cohort would converse in the local language, Telugu, so that language barrier made me feel left out. There were very few people I could converse with, and out of those a tiny subset were my friends.

Have you had any mental health problems during your academic tenure? If yes, did you try to use in-house counselling? What was your experience?

Didn’t have any mental health problems that I was aware of. Even if I did, there  was no option of  in house counselling.

Were you ever discriminated against for your demographic status — gender, caste, economic class, LGBTQIA+ status, mental health issues/neurodiversity, differently-abled status and social class (eg. English ability).

Wouldn’t say I was discriminated against. I was friendly with most people but couldn’t really become friends with most because of the  language barrier.

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