Working part-time makes us independent & responsible: Indian diaspora students

‘India still looks down upon students doing part-time jobs’

Diaspora

March 19, 2021

/ By / New Delhi

Working part-time makes us independent & responsible: Indian diaspora students

India is the second-largest source of international students after China

While most Indian students overseas take up part-time jobs for gaining experience and some extra money, they say that the societal structure back home does not allow them to experience a similar kind of independence, responsibility and work-culture along with their studies.

Parul Priyadarshi, a 24-year-old actuarial science student at London’s City University, had always dreamt of working in an old bookshop. She wanted to spend lazy afternoons and quiet evenings at a bookstore, away from the noise of the busy city; arranging and finding books, while chatting to some avid readers who shared her interest.

Priyadarshi’s dreams turned into reality a week ago when she got a job at a bookstore near her university as a care-taker. She had applied for the job about a month ago when she heard that the bookshop was looking for a person who would be available in the evenings. “It was perfect. This is what I had always wanted. Bookstores have always fascinated me and working in one, for some time, had been a dream for years,” she says.

The job not only provides her with an opportunity to get her hands on the books she likes, but it also lets her interact with like-minded people on a daily basis. But more than anything else, Priyadarshi says, that nobody looks down upon her and she is paid decent pocket money too.

Similar to Priyadarshi, Khwahish Jain, who is also a student of the same course, wish to work at a McDonald outlet part-time. She has been applying to nearby outlets and is hopeful of receiving a positive response.

Rashmi Bharadwaj, a 23-year-old, final-year industrial engineering student at the University of Toronto in Canada works as a part-time babysitter for the owners of her apartment. Not only has it been easy for her to spend her free time and earn extra pocket money, but it has also helped her become more patient and responsible, she says. “I would have never known that taking care of a child is such a responsible task. Since the day I started this job, I have not been late for college even once as I get up on time, no matter what. I have people who depend on me for taking care of their baby,” explains Bharadwaj.

Parul Priyadarshi works part-time as a caretaker at a bookstore

Bharadwaj, Jain and Priyadarshi are but only three members of the about two million Indian students who were studying abroad according to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs’ 2019 data. India is also the second-largest source of international students after China.

While two of the students are already working part-time and another one is hunting for a job, the thought of taking up similar jobs in India is beyond their imagination. They say that neither will their parents allow and nor will they themselves choose to do a part-time job in their own country.

“I cannot think of doing anything while I study here. My parents would pay for everything and even if I asked them for some extra money, they would give it to me directly rather than letting me work at a restaurant or a shop,” says Priyadarshi.

She goes on to say that most parents in India want their children to focus on only academics while they are pursuing any degree. Especially, if there is no financial constrain and the parents are capable of paying for their ward’s expenses, there is no way they are allowing them to take up part-time jobs. “It is looked down upon. No matter how rich or poor their family is, students are expected to take care of their finances and earn for themselves in foreign countries, unlike India,” she adds.

“Working at a restaurant, babysitting or working as a shopkeeper is not something to be ashamed of in foreign countries. Most of my classmates work somewhere or the other and their parents do not mind their jobs. Rather, they are appreciated for being financially independent,” adds Jain who studies at London City University.

But doing similar part-time jobs in India is out of the question for most of them as these are ‘looked down upon’. “People do not treat the workers at shops, hotels and restaurants with respect generally in our country. Everyone thinks that what they are doing is a ‘menial’ and an easy job. People do not assume that somebody might have wanted to do this job or a brilliant student might have taken this up because they need to gain experience. Everyone assumes that if you are working part-time, you must not be good at academics,” adds Bharadwaj.

Apart from being looked down upon, they also feel that certain jobs, especially if someone is working part-time, are almost never considered as an ‘experience’ while they apply for better opportunities. “While here, in Canada, recruiters look for young people with some amount of experience and responsibilities that they take up as students, in India, the case the difference. The problem is that everyone sees that you are making less money and not doing a very ‘reputed’ job but nobody counts the effort one puts in maintaining their schedule, fulfilling responsibilities and gaining experiences in the process. Part-time jobs as students turn out to be a waste of time in most cases when applying to a different sector of work in India,” says Bharadwaj who is more than happy to work as a babysitter after her college.

Jain says that India has a long way to go when it comes to letting children become financially independent. “I know of some people who have started working as writers and volunteering at organisations, but without telling their parents. India has a long way to go before it starts to see work as an experience rather than just money-making. For now, I love studying and living here as it is a wholesome experience, unlike being dependent on your parents for every little thing,” says Jain, still hoping to work at a McDonald outlet.

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