Personal and intellectual development the best way possible Past Review

By (Diplomacy and World Affairs, Occidental College) - abroad from 09/01/2019 to 12/15/2019 with

SIT Study Abroad: India - Sustainable Development and Social Change

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learnt much my intellectual interests and myself. For the former, I was initially somewhat interested in development, but after the program I am not only sure of said interest, but I also got to learn much more about it than I had thought possible and had the experience to see it firsthand. Regarding the latter, I not only better understood my interests, but I also better understood my limitations, abilities and potential.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Overall, my educational experience was exceptional not because of any particular teacher or subject, but because of the approach SIT has to learning. This means that not only will you hear from a wide variety of lecturers, but you will also be spending lots of time outside of class (and outside Jaipur) travelling and conducting research. At the same time, the staff are more than happy to help you every step of the way navigate everything India has to offer for your intellectual and personal development.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The program was well run and very accommodating for all of our needs. Being that we were a small group, often we were able to even make amends to the planned schedule through consensus and the staff were more than willing to help make that change a reality.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

For most of the program, we were lived with our host families on normal class days and hotels/hostels for excursions. I personally found both accommodations to be very satisfactory. Regarding my host family, I had a great time living with them as they accommodated for all my needs and were really nice and engaging overall. I also appreciated the times we spent together, from discussing international development with my host dad or practicing my Hindi with my host mom. The program does their best to pair you with a host family that matches your personality and interests and based on what my other friends think of their host families, these assignments are usually spot on.

* Food:

If you like Indian food, then you'll have no problem adapting to the local diet. However, meat is relatively scarce and pricey in India and I initially struggled with the drastic reduction of meat in my diet (also didn't help that I was the only avid meat eater in my batch), but eventually I got used to it. Also, in many smaller cities you'll likely find that all restaurants sell the same kinds of local food and generally there isn't much authentic international foods outside of Delhi or Mumbai. So if you have a multicultural diet, it might be a bit difficult initially, but there are enough cafes and foreign restaurants in Jaipur to keep you going.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Being an international student, I personally found it easy to integrate with the local culture, as it is very close to my own. However, it might be initially difficult for Americans to do the same, but people there are usually very receptive of this fact and wont give you a hard time.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

Overall, Jaipur is a relatively safe city and the program organizers and host families made sure we were all safe. Outside of that, just be sure to maintain standard safety procedures and to be aware of the attention your presence may cause. Also be very careful in trains and public transport as these are common hotspots for theft. I lost my phone in one of the excursions so always hide away all valuables in public places and don't draw attention to yourself.

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

I chose the program because it somewhat aligned with my intellectual interests and my interest in India. Knowing all the things I do now and all the things I learnt, I would chose the same program but go about it differently.


* 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)

India is a country with a very cheap cost of living, so if you're smart about spending your money and are willing to cut some corners, you could get so much for so little cost. However, always prioritize safety and comfort over anything else and don't hesitate to spend more when these are on the line.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? I would spend as little as $50 per week and at most $100 per week
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Food in India, compared to the US, is absurdly cheap so from the start you'll be spending much less. If you're saving money, always opt for the vegetarian option in any restaurant, as the price can be up to five times less than the meat option (and even here you could opt for chicken instead of mutton to cut costs, seafood can be cheap or expensive depending on where you are). Also avoid expensive restaurants and go for more modest looking restaurants, but look out for cleanliness and quality before eating anywhere. If you know how and feel safe doing so (and don't mind following an inconsistent schedule), take public transportation instead of autos or Ubers (which isn't even available in most cities). If not, learn to haggle with the auto drivers for the best price possible. Generally, if you look and act foreign they might charge more, so always assert yourself in these negotiations (and maybe sprinkle in some Hindi). For transport, I personally got lucky and was able to travel between cities in public buses during my ISP for $4 both ways, allowing me to spend more on hotels, but again there are safety and cleanliness issues you have to be aware of.


* 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

Since almost everyone in India speaks some English, there isn't a big push for us to have to use the Hindi we learnt and usually speaking Hindi for most students happens only in Hindi classes or when the other party can't speak English. However, the Hindi teachers definitely made learning the language enjoyable and occasionally encouraged us to use some of the Hindi that we learnt. I personally interacted with them extensively, as I was in a weird position where I picked up the language faster than the basic class but slower than the advanced class. Because of this I had to ask for explanations on more advanced sentence constructions and in these interactions they were more than happy to help me improve.

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? Intermediate
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? I loved watching Bollywood movies long before deciding to go to India and this hobby was a partly the reason I chose India in the end. Little did I know that this will help me tremendously when I'm learning the language in a class setting, as by this point, many Hindi words and phrases had become familiar to me (I just didn't know what they meant). So before going to the program, I recommend watching some movies just to familiarize yourself with the language. Also, Bollywood movies are generally a great time to watch so definitely watch them for fun even if you don't understand the language yet. Also, push yourself to speak because that's the only way you'll learn. Before this program, I had been learning Chinese for most of my life and only really started getting better when I started speaking. Applying the same rule to Hindi, I was able to quickly get the flow of the language and made it useful for everyday interactions. You might sound weird and make lots of mistakes at first, but having Hindi teachers present all the time is so that you can know your mistakes and improve on them.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
  • Host Family
  • Hotel
  • Hostel
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

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

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Exploring the diversity of Indian cultures
  • Pursuing my intellectual interests full time
  • The friends I made along the way
* What could be improved?
  • The diversity of viewpoints
  • The diversity of cultures introduced
  • The preparation to take full advantage of opportunities available
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I knew the actual extent of the flexibility that is offered by an SIT program and didn't have to adapt to this fact on the spot. Instead, I could have planned accordingly and taken full advantage of the chance to design my own learning experience.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!