Louis Brickman, Gabriella Grahek and Sadie-Rae Werner contributed to this report.
SEOUL — Students in the Classes 2019 and 2020, both based in Seoul for the 2017 fall term, have begun to turn their attention towards the coming spring semester in Hyderabad, India. The student visa process for India kicked off in mid-October and has gone through many iterations as students and staff work to overcome the logistical and bureaucratic hurdles of processing more than 200 student visas.
The move to Hyderabad will be the fifth rotation for the Class of 2019 and third for Class of 2020. The fall academic term ends next week, on December 17, and students can start to arrive at Minerva’s Hyderabad residence as early as December 28, with official Minerva programing beginning January 5, 2018.
In preparation for this transition, the official Pre-Departure Orientation (PDO) — an event hosted before each new city in the rotation by Minerva Student Affairs & Operations to prepare students for the next city in the rotation — was held at the Seoul Minerva residence on November 17. Minerva’s Hyderabad Director of Student Affairs & Operations, Ishmeet Kaur, presented at PDO to inform students about the necessary logistical and cultural preparations before arriving in Hyderabad.
Within two weeks of PDO, word spread that Kaur was no longer working full time for Minerva. This surprised many students since the announcement came just one month before students arrive in Hyderabad.
Rumors suggested conflicting reasons for Kaur’s unexpected departure and heightened some students’ concerns about the transition to the new city.
“Hiring in cities can be a long and challenging process. Minerva tries to find people with the right skills and expertise, who will be a good fit for Minerva and be able to support students. Sometimes that works, but sometimes that doesn’t, and for lots of different reasons.”
On December 3, Katie Hyon, the Seoul Director of Student Affairs & Operations, confirmed in an email to the relevant portion of the student body (Classes 2019 and 2020) that Kaur is no longer working full time at Minerva. Simultaneously, Minerva formally announced the new Hyderabad Director of Student Affairs & Operations is Bhavani Aadimoolam, whose background can be viewed by Minerva students and staff here.
Hyon wrote, “Unfortunately, Ishmeet was ultimately unable to work full time with Minerva due to personal reasons. We respect her privacy, and wish her nothing but the best! We had been in touch with Bhavani earlier this fall, and we are very excited that we now have a Director.”
When asked for further details about this transition, Hyon clarified that beyond being respectful of Kaur’s privacy, there are legal restrictions surrounding what Minerva is able to publicly share regarding employee information and personal records.
Hyon emphasized, “Hiring in cities can be a long and challenging process. Minerva tries to find people with the right skills and expertise, who will be a good fit for Minerva and be able to support students. Sometimes that works, but sometimes that doesn’t, and for lots of different reasons.”
The Minerva Quest attempted to contact Kaur directly for comment but received no reply.
Beyond the official PDO, Class of 2020 students Sara Merner and Manojna Namuduri, who spent the past summer in Hyderabad, hosted unofficial information sessions earlier in November to address student concerns. The events focused primarily on topics relating to female safety, but also safe food consumption and transportation.
The highlights from the sessions include: dressing modestly, only buying cooked food that is still warm, and purchasing only bottled water from recognized brands. For female students, it is recommended to travel in groups at night, and with male students when going to older parts of the city.
Each city in Minerva’s global rotation — San Francisco, Berlin, Buenos Aires, and Seoul — comes with its own unique challenges and rewards. These aspects touch every part of daily life and range from internet accessibility and language barriers, to cultural customs and street safety, all of which will be put to the test in this next rotation.
The first days in India will be a significant adjustment period as students transition from the relative ease and extreme safety of life in Seoul to a new environment in Hyderabad.
Check out our article describing Hyderabad and how to best prepare for the city here.