— New Delhi
Around 4,000 Indian students appeared for interviews on Thursday to secure the American visa to pursue higher education in the U.S., brushing aside fears of hate crimes in that country.
The interviews were conducted at the U.S. Embassy here and the Consulates in Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai.
Arunima Sharma, who is looking for a MS in Management Science programme in Columbia University, says she is not apprehensive of hate crimes despite reading about them in the media.
"I have been to the U.S. earlier for a fellowship program. That time, I was a little skeptical but things turned out to be great and I felt very safe," Sharma told IANS.
"I never became a victim of racial discrimination and there was support from fellow students and others in and around the campus," she said.
Changam Meenakshi Rajagopal is entering a Ph.D program in Astrophysics at Clemson, South Carolina. Going by what she has heard from her friends, who have studied in the U.S., she feels assured about her safety and security.
"I have had many friends pursuing various courses in the US. They have never complained about the safety situation," she said.
In an interview to IANS, a former Stanford don had said that the violent attacks against Indians -- and other ethnic groups -- in the U.S. were not indicative of the whole country and students should not take them into account while deciding to apply to U.S. universities.
"There is no denying there has been sporadic and random violence against Indians in the U.S. These incidents were tragic and disturbing, but they are not indicative of the country as a whole," Martin Walsh had said.
For Karan Raina, who will be studying for an MS in Quantitative Finance at Rutgers University, the steps the US institutes take to ensure the safety of the students are satisfactory.
"They place the same kind of value on international students that they place on U.S. students in the educational programme. They take proper security measures for the foreign students," Raina told IANS.
As per U.S. official data, there are some 166,000 Indian students in that country, second to China. Two years ago, this number was roughly about 100,000.
"Today, every sixth international student in the U.S. is from India and they are contributing enormously to every aspect of life at the university and in the surrounding communities," US Ambassador Charge d'Affaires MaryKay L. Carlson told the media.
"We are celebrating Indian students who are not only taking an exciting step in their higher education but are also furthering the strong people-to-people ties between the two countries," she said.