Coming from an area of India that is home to 1,053 people per square kilometre, James Cook University Masters student Gowtham Premchand has had no trouble settling into the suburbs of North Queensland.
Mr Gowtham recently received a six-month scholarship to study at JCU Townsville as part of a “twinning” arrangement JCU has with the Rajagiri Centre for Business Studies in the City of Cochin in the southern State of Kerala in India.
He is part of the third cohort of students to be involved in the twinning arrangement, which involves students starting their Masters of Business Administration in India (at Rajagiri) and then completing their studies at JCU and receive a JCU Masters degree.
Mr Gowtham, who has an undergraduate Engineering Degree in electronics and communications from the SCMS School of Engineering Technology, completed his undergraduate degree in 2007.
He then worked for IWS, a telecommunications company in India which specialises in radio frequency engineering.
Mr Gowtham said he arrived on July 14 and would stay for the course period, and may then opt for a dual degree, as part of his Masters of Conflict and Dispute Resolution.
“I was interested to do the twinning course in international MBA with Rajagiri college, one of the best business schools in our State, and from the options I chose James Cook University, which I gather is an old famous and well-rated University of repute,” he said.
Mr Gowtham said he had never been to Australia before and said he was impressed with Townsville so far.
“ I am really excited to be here and enjoying each moment of my stay here,” he said.
“There are very friendly people, helpful, and it’s a great campus.”
Mr Gowtham said he completed six months at Ragigari before receiving news of the scholarship to JCU, which was awarded on the basis of his first trimester of marks and personal background.
He said he heard in January this year, during one of his classes, that he was successful.
“My parents and two faculty staff were in the room. The principal came in and informed me. It was a really good feeling,” he said.
Mr Gowtham said as part of the scholarship arrangement, he would be living at University Halls on campus at JCU for the semester, or until mid-November.
He also has a group of friends, who are also completing their MBAs, who live off-campus in a share house nearby, whom he regularly visits.
“Because I don’t have a car they come and pick me up and take me back to their house. Sometimes we talk all night and I don’t get home until 6am in the morning.”
Mr Gowtham said the Townsville JCU campus was larger than he anticipated.
“I think the freedom that you feel here makes it seem large as well,” he said.
“There are also so many opportunities at JCU, for example, if you take certain subjects and you need to change, you can; that is an opportunity we don’t have in India. There are also lots of places to sit around outside, it’s a really good atmosphere.”
Mr Gowtham said neither he nor any of his friends had experienced any sort of discrimination against Indian students at university in Australia, and said he was shocked at the suggestion.
“I’ve never heard of that. Not even my friends have said anything. Actually, most of them are currently applying to do second degrees here,” he said.
“I think, with something like that, some people want to make a bigger issue of something than it actually is.”
JCU International Marketing Officer Matthew Monkhouse said Townsville was actually home to a large Kerala community and there was a “real connection” between the Indian State of Kerala and Townsville.
Mr Gowtham said he was enjoying his independence while living on campus.
“You have to learn your own cooking, whereas at home your parents always cook for you.”
He said chicken and a range of vegetables was his favourite meal of choice so far.
One activity on his future agenda, though, was seeing more of North Queensland’s attractions.
“I don’t get out to see as much as I’d like, as I don’t have a car, but I am looking forward to seeing Magnetic Island.”