Punjabis are known for their craze for foreign lands and to become non-resident Indians (NRIs). The lure of a good life abroad is so great that there is no stopping Punjabis going abroad despite all the prosperity the agrarian state enjoys due to its fertile land.

From selling their prized land to putting their lives at risk, a large number of Punjabis try every method to get to a foreign land. But while skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled Punjabis don’t hesitate in migrating to even conflict zones like Iraq, even the young generation of Punjabis appears to be preferring foreign countries for education due to more than one reason.

A resident of Rupnagar (Punjab), Navjeet Kaur is now a student of Centennial College, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada. She said she chose to pursue her Master’s degree from an international university for gaining practical knowledge rather than just academic.

“I had the desire to explore something new. So I chose to pursue my masters from this university in Canada as education here is more practical and helps students to achieve their goals and ambitions,” she told The Statesman over phone from Canada.

A student from Centennial College, Scarborough, Ontario, Jasmeen Kaur said she came to Canada for the sake of exposure because she was  fed up of the Indian education system.

“Indian education is good but it gives only theoretical knowledge, not much hands-on experience. So I moved here and things are really different here. It’s a continuous evaluation and involvement, good hands-on practical knowledge,” Kaur, who is a resident of Sirsa in Haryana, said.

A resident of Khanna (Punjab), Shweta Thappar said she chose Canada for education as the education scenario is changing. “Now each and every student wants to explore every nook and corner of the world in terms of lifestyle, education, culture, tradition, etc.

“Moreover, people think a foreign destination as a better option in terms of security, value (both monetary and qualifications) and safety related to their life late at night especially for girls because foreign governments provide additional facilities for students them as well as their families,” she added.

A resident of Sriganganagar district of Rajasthan which borders Punjab, Ritika Dhiman is now a student of Lambton College, Canada. “I came abroad after my graduation. I took this decision in order to have a better lifestyle as I realised that the living conditions in India weren’t good.

“One needs to really study hard and then compete harder to obtain a job in India. Whereas, one is able to spend life easily here in Canada even while working in a warehouse,” Ritika said.

A student preparing for civil services in Delhi, Yuvraj Dandyan said he is also thinking of going abroad for better career prospects. “Ideally, parents expect their kids to apply for engineering or medical colleges after passing out from school. To get admitted in those colleges, students need to pass out from reputed schools with good grades. Good grades require investing in coaching institutes. The whole process costs parents about Rs 4 lakh a year,” he said.

“But the sad part is, these colleges do not necessarily even guarantee a job but still charge exorbitant fees. So instead of spending around  Rs 15 to Rs 16 lakh  for four years of higher education, many parents now prefer investing the same amount in sending their kids to Canada. After all, within six months, their wards are able to find a job there and start earning money. If one child from the family is able to settle in, parents start sending other children too,” he added.

A resident of Chandigarh and the mother of son settled in Australia, Davinder Kaur, said she sent her only son abroad as wanted him to have a bright future. “Rather than cry on my head all his life, I am happy he is settled in Australia. Even I know he will never earn this much in India. If he had stayed back in India, he might not have been as successful and would have cursed me throughout his life that for my emotional cause, he could not go abroad,” she told The Statesman. A project coordinator at the Centre for Research on Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID) in Chandigarh, Professor Aswini Kumar Nanda, said migration to foreign countries has become a question of identity and status symbol for Punjabis. Prof Nanda, who has conducted a study on “Dynamics of International Out-Migration from Punjab”, said Punjab lives in a culture of migration. He said the primary purpose of students preferring foreign universities is not study but to get a secured life.

“Punjabis have a tradition to go to foreign countries as their ancestors or some relatives have been there already who provide them support and a base to go and settle there. Settling in foreign countries also provides them with social status which further enhances their standard of living,” he said.

“Countries like Canada also encourage them to migrate as they get skilled man power to their country. People from Punjab  become their economic migrants,” Prof Nanda added.