While there are nearly 8,000 miles separating India and The University of Toledo, a student organization on campus helps to make it feel a little more like home for Indian students.
The Indian Student Cultural Organization (ISCO) helps Indian students adapt and flourish at college in America. Between social events, festivals, aid with housing and airport pickups, the organization works to make the transition for international students as easy as possible.“It’s very difficult for an international student going somewhere new,” said Krishnakant Patel, ISCO president.
When Patel first became a member of ISCO in 2012, the group’s membership was at an all-time low due to a large number of graduating students. The seniors at the time decided to revamp the organization so that future students wouldn’t have to struggle to get acclimated on campus like they did.
“The group wasn’t active when we first came here, so it was kind of difficult to get in touch with everyone here at UT,” Patel explained.
New programs and events were instated, including an airport pickup program where students could be shuttled from either the Detroit Metropolitan or Toledo Express airports if they became a member of ISCO — which costs just $10.
Since then, ISCO’s numbers have been steadily increasing.“We want to bring our organization to the next level and make sure everyone at UT, especially the new incoming students this semester, know about our organization and what we offer,” said Raj Jessica Thomas, ISCO marketing manager.
A variety of activities and festivals also are offered through ISCO to celebrate Indian culture, including Patel’s favorite, Diya — an event to celebrate Deepawali, the festival of lights. During the event, students perform traditional dances and songs, and Indian food is provided. The event is ISCO’s largest; last year more than 600 people attended.
“This event gives an overall idea for the people on what India really is,” he said. “People get to see India is a diverse place where each state has its own way of living.”
ISCO also helps put on Holi Toledo, which is Thomas’ favorite. The campus-wide event, which is organized by a collaboration of groups including ISCO, the UT Center for International Studies and Programs, and the UT Center for Religious Understanding, is for the Hindu religious festival Holi — a celebration known for the color thrown into the air to commemorate the arrival of spring.
“Since so many people are walking around the field where Holi is, it gives us a great opportunity to expose our culture to everyone,” she said.
In addition to the big festivals, ISCO gives students the chance to connect and just hang out with movie nights and cricket tournaments. The group also organizes trips to the Hindu Temple of Toledo, located on King Road in Sylvania, so students can connect with community members.
“It gives [students] good exposure to a lot of other people so they don’t feel homesick,” Patel said.