Indian students find ‘home away from home’ at UNL

The Indian Student Association provides a home away from home at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for Indian students who are 7,500 miles away from their homeland.

The organization tries to build a community for students from India while also helping them transition into American culture, said president Murtaza Nalwala. The group also hosts different cultural events to help students feel more comfortable in their new surroundings.

The organization provides an opportunity for Indian students to grow with one another, said  Nikita Gambhir, the group’s secretary.

“We organize certain cultural celebrations,” she said. “It actually makes them feel better that they are actually home. We celebrate different ceremonies that we celebrate back in India.”

Among those are Happy Diwali and Holi, two traditional holidays celebrated in India, Gambhir said. Happy Diwali is a celebration of lightness over dark, while Holi is known as the festival of colors and is a spring tradition.

The group even helps new students financially, said Nalwala, an engineering major Gujarat, India who is in his second year at UNL.

“We do help them in whatever way possible,” he said. “We try to give them one complimentary Walmart visit for anything they may have forgotten in India.”

The members pay for those services out of their own pockets, Nalwala said.

“It is just a goodwill we have that we pass things on from generation to generation,” he said. “If a new Indian student is coming, it’s your duty to help them.”

The group also helps parents feel more comfortable, Nalwala said. Parents want to make sure their students are going to a safe environment.

“In India parents are concerned about their children,” he said. “Parents like to interact with people at the university to make sure his or her child is going to a proper place.”

All people are welcomed to the Indian Student Association, Gambhir noted. Creating a dialogue between people is one way for people to come together.

“After I came here I realized that when you interact with people from different countries you realize that you are basically the same,” she said. “If you are fearful of who somebody is, it’s better to interact rather than make a judgment from a far.”

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