Jan. 9, 2023Print | PDF
Snigdha Basu’s journey to becoming an international student in Wilfrid Laurier University’s Master of Environmental Studies program was longer than most.
Prior to attending Laurier, Basu spent seven years working as a broadcast journalist with NDTV, India’s premier news channel. Before that, she earned a degree in international relations and statistics at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. During her childhood, Basu’s parents’ work took the family from Sweden to Zimbabwe, Namibia and later South Africa.
Basu recently completed the requirements for her master’s degree in Environmental Studies under the supervision of Professor Robert McLeman and Professor Margaret Walton Roberts. Basu chose to study at Laurier for the opportunity to work with McLeman, a noted expert in international climate migration, and Roberts, an accomplished scholar whose academic work focuses on international migration.
Below, Basu discusses her international experience and the supportive community she found at Laurier.
My thesis was about environmental migration, specifically voluntary migration. I focused on how people are leaving highly polluted countries like India in search of better air quality. Previously, we had seen that people would leave for financial or economic opportunities, but now people from India – especially Delhi, which is the most polluted capital city in the world – are leaving in search of better air quality for themselves and their future generations. Part of the thesis is looking at where they are going and the determinants that help them choose a new host country, so that will be my future research.
Studying statistics, I wanted to do psephology, which is the study of elections. That prompted me to move to India, where there is a multi-party system that allows for a good study of psephology. So I moved to India to work as a journalist with NDTV, which is India’s premier news channel and also a leader in elections. NDTV and its founder, Dr. Prannoy Roy, are pioneers of this kind of election study on broadcast TV, so that prompted me to join the news team. I worked as a broadcast journalist, news anchor and reporter covering politics, foreign affairs and environmental health for NDTV for close to seven years before I decided I wanted to go back to university.
I feel that I myself am a case study of environmental migration, so I am passionate about it. I covered pollution in Delhi as a reporter on the ground. I have seen people who are on the streets and even elites of the capital city who equally suffer due to the bad air. On any normal day between October and February, the air quality in Delhi is equal to people smoking 17 to 20 cigarettes a day – and that’s not smokers, it’s just the air. People with children don’t want to live in that environment. They are exhausted before they even get to work, let alone come back from work. I loved my work and the city, but I felt that because of the negative effects that pollution has on our health, it was an unsustainable way of life.
There were two challenges and I think one of them is probably very common: the snow in the winter. I came during the winter and I had never lived in snow as an adult. That was a little bit of an adjustment and continues to be. The second challenge was that the program began during the pandemic and you don’t have that personal touch meeting with people and engaging with them. I think for a graduate student that’s quite important because you soak in ideas from around you. Our environment was Zoom and little boxes on the screen. Eventually, I did move to Canada when the lockdown started lifting. It was a challenging time, but we made the most of it.
In the department of Geography and Environmental Studies at Laurier, everyone is very involved with the students and know them or know of them. If you go into the department asking for any sort of help, people will sit down and talk with you. For a newcomer, it’s very important to get to know the place and the people. Otherwise, you just read from resources online, which is great, but it doesn’t have that personal experience or personal touch. Also, the International Office was the first office I saw when I entered a Laurier building for the first time. The people there were very helpful in directing me toward the different programs for international students and the community they have there.
Laurier has the best academic programs and supervisors. It’s an amazing place to connect, soak in knowledge and meet people. And the way that courses at Laurier take place is very engaging. It’s not just the professor giving you readings and assignments; it is more about engaging students – “What do you think about this problem?” It’s not just a book and a policy that is driving academics at Laurier, it’s feedback from the community and feedback from the students on how to solve problems. I think that was the best part of the learning experience.
I use the Career Centre quite extensively, which has helped me learn how to create a CV and cover letter for the Canadian job market. Both in person and in virtual meetings, the Career Centre has been very accessible and helpful. It is a great resource and I encourage all students to use the Career Centre as much as possible. The people there are very patient and understanding. I am also a part of the Tandem Language Program, where you meet other students and learn about the languages and cultures of other group members.
Everyone should come in with an open mind. For international students, it’s going to be different territory, but the people at Laurier are very friendly. Laurier is a smaller school and the best part of it is that there’s one-on-one attention, more opportunities to connect with people. Whether it’s your peers or your supervisors, use that network to connect with more people. It’s going to help you in your studies and your future.
I’ve recently joined the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto as a communications specialist. I am exploring that space of now being on the other side of storytelling because I really do like storytelling. As a journalist, that’s what drove me to go out and find stories. I want to continue that in some format or another. I also want to stay connected with Laurier and I continue to take part in the university’s Global Ambassadors meetings. There is a huge number of students who come from the Indian subcontinent. I would love to be engaged in programs that show these students that Laurier is a great place to pursue their education.
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