The Integration Question with Princess Pamela Toyin
From nothing to everything: a life-changing scholarship from the Irish Government awarded to a student psychologist in India opened doors to exploring college, experiencing a whole other world and making something meaningful of her life.
Indeed, an “opportunity to fulfil my dreams” is how Shikha Gill Thakur describes her Master’s in International Relations at Dublin City University and how it served as an eyeopener to the western world.
“Without the scholarship, I couldn’t afford to come to Ireland or have the lifetime opportunity to meet [Taoiseach] Enda Kenny and Education Minister Ruairi Quinn. It is a considerable achievement for a middle-class-family person like me.”
Her time in Ireland has no doubt boosted Thakur’s confidence, with the chance to strike out on her own in a creative and innovative society where ordinary individuals have the opportunity to become significant.
She also appreciates that the Irish authorities “acknowledged my teaching qualifications from India and granted me a registration number essential for teaching. I am now a registered teacher with the Teaching Council of Ireland and a teacher at the Hope Autism Care Centre and Montessori [in Clonsilla, west Dublin].”
From psychology to international relations, Thakur feels she is now settled on teaching, fulfilling her passion for caring for children. “I love working with children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder,” she says. “It gives me a chance to apply my understanding of education and psychology and every day brings a new challenge and I love to be a part of the specialised team working towards the best for those children.”
Living in a multicultural society, being free and flexible in her academic and professional environment, as well as learning from the different cultures that make up Ireland today provides Thakur with a remarkable experience.
“For me, I have friends from different nationalities including native Irish people and I love it. It helps me grow as a person giving me a good exposure of different cultures and ways of life. I have always had positive experiences with native Irish people, be it in university, at work, everyday life. I have never struggled to feel a part of the group and have always felt fully integrated.”
Like many migrants, Thakur does feel like she’s left a part of herself back home in India, especially as it is not easy to get her parents visas to visit. This is an area in which she believes the Government is still lagging behind.
“It is a bit hard to call your parents as dependent here as the visa regulations are quite hard, even after [getting an] employment permit. I think if [the Government] were a bit more relaxed, it would be helpful for people like me who want to show their parents their new life, and let them spend some time with their children.”
For the most part, however, things are going in a positive direction for Thakur. “My brother has joined me here and is studying at the same university, but I miss my family and friends back home. I have been an aspiring person and I believe Ireland has empowered me, but I would be more than happy if I could live here with my family.”
The opportunity to travel, acquire international work experience and knowledge, and not face racism has been fulfilling for Thakur. “I have never faced any racism in Ireland,” she says. “I get the due respect in every sector, be it from professors and students in university, from my students’ parents, fellow teachers in school, natives in the neighbourhood and everyday lived life.”
As for her future in this country? “Ireland has sponsored my studies, living expenses, a better life, [provided a] full-time job, good money, etc. I love it and would be happy to serve the country in whatever capacity possible. From its people to its greenery, modernity, peacefulness, I like everything about Ireland – except the weather.”
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Princess Pamela Toyin is a journalist and author with over 25 years’ experience in various roles, including as an executive PA to company directors, as a public relations executive, reporter, editor and publisher, research consultant and workshop facilitator.