Challenging, but Rewarding! January 27, 2015

By (American University) - abroad from 08/24/2014 to 12/16/2014 with

Alliance for Global Education: Pune - Contemporary India

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I am so thankful that I chose this program. Looking back at all of the positive experiences I had, I truly learned how the locals of Pune lived on a daily basis, even though it is such a completely different culture. The academic component connected the larger social and development issues of India into my understandings as well. Even the not-so-positive aspects, while more than one existed, allowed me to push myself as a person and became extremely educational experiences that I would not change.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The in-class learning really supplemented the experiential learning of going abroad. I had some amazing professors that really made the academic experience wonderful, while others were a little lackluster, truly depending on the courses selected.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The staff tried their best to accommodate all of the students, which is no small feat in India where planning ahead is a little uncommon. A little more checking-up on the students could have been done, but the program emphasizes students to reach a certain level of independence in the country.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Living with a homestay was a little difficult at the beginning, as a sense of independence is lost and new house rules are enforced. Yet this aspect of the program was extremely rewarding- these strangers soon become family, and aid in whatever troubles or cultural misunderstandings that their students are having and truly care about the people they host. Also, sharing a room with an American on the program enriched the sense of community within the program, and helped with the logistics of traveling to school.

* Food:

The food of Pune is wonderful and very different. Restaurants in Pune are a great way to explore the city and culture through the immense variety of dishes. Moreover, the streetfood is a necessary component to Indian cuisine as well. Although I missed salads on occasion, one could go to a Western (albeit, more expensive) place to provide that. Nevertheless, the American stomach has a little bit more trouble adjusting to the food, as expected.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Throughout my experience with the people of Pune, so many of them have gone out of their way to make me feel comfortable: my homestay, the program staff, the cultural expression teacher, Indian buddies, shopkeepers, and everyday street interactions. The program does a lot involving Indian Buddies and others to provide the opportunity to make this cultural immersion happen. While these were valiant efforts, the mere outright cultural differences between the U.S. and India are so much that it is very difficult to feel completely immersed. However, the more effort one puts in to connect with the people of Pune, the more one will succeed in feeling integrated.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Certain vaccines as well as Malaria pills were recommended for this trip. When someone became ill, the program assisted the student to the doctor for their first visit. The medicines are extremely inexpensive and seem to work fine. Of course the system is not as developed as the U.S., and ayurvedic medicine is something that many locals follow, which is much different from Western medicine, but Western healthcare is easily accessible.

* Safety:

For a woman, there are precautions in going to India, yet being smart about one's lifestyle in Pune truly makes a difference. The program implements a curfew (around 10pm) to offset danger, and encourages students to travel in groups, as well as providing several safety tips for daily living in the city. Traveling alone, especially at night, is an obvious risk. While the safety is a concern, I was able to travel alone for short periods of time during the day with confidence, and there are plenty of strangers willing to help.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

Finances

* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

The currency exchange made it very affordable to live in Pune. The expenses of the students varied greatly, depending on the amount of stuff bought, the amount of places and distances traveled, and the frequency of going to Western hotels and restaurants (which had Western prices). Overall, extremely easy to afford living expenses with smart budgeting.

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Limit going to Western restaurants and hotels. When traveling, staying in hostels rather than hotels is a safe and cheap lodging option.

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

The program did not require Hindi, but did offer this as a course. The use of the language was the responsibility and choice of the student. Asking hostparents to only speak Hindi is an option, although a pretty rare choice of students. The local language is Marathi, not Hindi, which made everyday use of the language more difficult, although a fair number of people knew both.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Beginner
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? none in Hindi
How many hours per day did you use the language? 0
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? speak in Hindi with other students outside the classroom, speak to your hostparents in Hindi.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Hostfamily
  • optional cultural expression course
  • student independence with program support
* What could be improved?
  • more travel time
  • more check-in from program staff
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I knew the amount of time that we were able to travel during the program,which was more limited than I originally expected. However, I feel that the intention of the program is to understand the daily life and living habits of the Pune local, and while traveling is fun, my most in-depth learning came from living life in Pune on a daily basis. It is difficult to know what the program will be like before a student actually gets to Pune, yet the unknown is all part of the unique experience.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Emerging South Asian Economies

Course Department: Economics
Instructor: Ashish Kulkarni
Instruction Language: English
Comments: The professor was extremely knowledgeable in his field, and offered so many real-world examples related back to India. He was an engaging lecturer and approachable person. I highly recommend taking any of his classes to make the academic experience a truly rewarding one.
Credit Transfer Issues: