A day in the life of undergraduate students
It’s a sunny wintry day at Sompura, home to the undergraduate city campus of Azim Premji University. It is the end of the semester, and the campus has an air of purpose and quiet activity with people meandering through the corridors in lively conversation, books and laptops in hand and the hurried air of deadlines.
Now three years old, the undergraduate programme is designed to be interdisciplinary, with students studying a Common Curriculum in addition to a specialisation in a Major (in Physics, the Humanities, Physics and Biology). There are mentors and counsellors on campus to help students cope with workload and the struggles of a rigorous academic journey, as well as the experience of living at close quarters with people from all over the country for three years.
The lawns are the epicentre of the happenings on campus, flanked by three-storied buildings that are to one side, home and the other, classroom. Sprawled here are the guitar-playing, the studious and the thoughtful, students lounging about together and alone, working on assignments or relaxing from intense classes. At lunchtime, the mess has the noisy echo of chatter. Students come and go, talking to their teachers about club activities and discussions that are often an extension of coursework or a debate that they’ve just been a part of. A dedicated frisbee league is busy scheduling their next match with an equally dedicated and overlapping Ambedkar study group.
What makes life on campus so unique? Different students respond with their thoughtful reflections. The most interesting aspect, they say, is that the relationships built are very close, thanks to living together.
“We think about diversity and inclusion a lot, and everything is put in perspective of justice and equity (maybe that’s just my subjects). So, I start to see things in very different terms,” says Nithya, a third year student of the Humanities.
A lot is said about “a community that cares,” but the students agree that this spirit is authentic. “I have never heard it being said out loud with so much conviction,” says Anushka, a student of Biology in her third year. “It’s not a community that excels, or a community that argues and debates, or one that produces researchers and teachers and leaders — we will do that anyway. Foremost, we must be a community that cares. You’re not a walking grade sheet or a CV, you’re not your CGPA, or the big English words that you know, and you’re definitely not a stereotype of your gender, class, caste… We do fail, a lot. But we try.”
Students express a sense of being heard and taken care, and respect that teachers take the trouble to truly care for their individual welfare. “We address them by their first name and hang out with them. Some of the smartest, most accomplished people we’ll ever know — frankly, I am still not used to that. They admit when they fail. And all of this just puts a lot of pressure on me. To talk to people, to really care, to listen more that I speak, to listen to many people and many stories. Oh, and I fail a lot. Colossally. But at least I try, or try to try” says Advait, third year student of Economics.
All in all, it is a community, and a group of people that works hard to be a community, and a second home to all. Though students sometimes complain that personal space can be limited, the campus in the far corners of Bengaluru rural doesn’t deter them from trips into the city for off-campus fun and games. Outside of the active life on campus with clubs, sports, celebrations and discussions, the students relish their weekends and late nights off, and they promise that they make the most of it.