Lately I’ve seen a lot of “About Me” sections on websites of Indian college students with lines like “I’m a senior undergrad at so-and-so college”. I never remember people calling themselves senior or junior undergrads; but then again, I’ve just recently chanced upon the college scene, and maybe this is a common trend. At least one thing I’m sure of: this is something prevalent amongst students of comparatively bigger institutes: some of my friends from other colleges still call themselves “second-year students”.
So why are people switching to this new nomenclature? It’s simple: That’s how the Amreekan college students refer to themselves, and similar lingo on an Indian student’s website or profile more often than not indicates a desire to be recruited or at least understood by some Amreekan “grad school” or company. Maybe the admissions committee at Texas A&M does not know what “fourth-year college student” means.
I’m not some khadi-wearing politician who exhorts people to not “ape the West”, but these terms are alien to us. Indians might probably understand fresh fruit or fresh fish, but calling a person (even women, for that matter) freshman is certainly odd; sophomore is totally Greek, whereas sow for more might be more intelligible. In most Indian colleges, a so-called “junior undergrad” is actually senior to half the college, and a “senior” is not a senior to almost one-fourth of the population.
I’m not saying “first-year student” is a Sanskrit phrase, but maybe here (as in other and more important matters) we are getting rid of language we traditionally use, in order to be better “understood” by the West. But then, (sounds very clichéd, this) change is the only permanent thing in life. If only our college experience was as Western as our names for it.