Indian friends and family visit Bega Valley

An Indian exchange student who studied in Bega in the 1980s recently returned to the Valley – along with a large group of family and friends. 

While on a holiday, Gautam Shah and his companions visited the Sapphire Coast Anglican College on September 15 to talk to students about his connection with the area. 

He was a student in the Rotary Club’s exchange program in 1980-81, studying at Bega High School where he made many friends. 

Mr Shah came from a large family in the small agricultural village of Vapi, 180km north of Mumbai, where he lived on a farm with very simple amenities. 

“The first night I came to Australia and went into an Australian house I was given a bed, but I was not used to comforts so halfway through the night I just pulled off a blanket and lay on the floor,” he said.

In Bega he was taught how to use a knife and fork, as in India he would use his hands. 

“It’s really nice to use your hands to eat, it’s more tasty!” he said. 

Mr Shah said lots of people had asked him if he experienced racism at Bega High. 

But he never did, and instead made many friends such as Wayne Schaefer of Cobargo and Bernie Collins of Candelo who looked after him.

He said the Rotary exchange program was a great initiative that benefited students. 

“Because of the cultural exchange program, kids will experience a different culture at home that would give them a wider perspective of what’s happening in the world,” he said. 

Mr Shah returns to the Bega Valley regularly. 

“Bega has been a wonderful experience, it is a major part of my life,” he said. 

From 1998-2001, his son Varun Shah attended SCAC – then the Bega Valley Christian College – while living in Bega.

His son also returned to the Bega Valley for the recent visit. 

Varun, who now works in Sydney as an engineer, said most of his memories of Bega were of hanging out with friends. 

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