An important experience that cannot be summed up in one line Past Review

By (Bowdoin College) - abroad from 08/15/2015 to 11/29/2015 with

South India Term Abroad - SITA

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
It was quite worthwhile. I got a very different perspective on how the world works and developed interesting skills.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Classes were interesting and well taught. The SITA library had a good selection of resources. Most classes were not very rigorous, but probably more so than a typical abroad program. The independent study portion was the most valuable part of the educational experience.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Things went smoothly, and the director and other faculty were always very open to suggestions.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Living with a host family taught me a lot, but also restricted my independence. My host family did not do many activities outside the house with me, which was a bit unexpected. Physically, the arrangements were comfortable.

* Food:

The food overall was some of the best I've had. Restaurant lunches are $1-2 for a delicious all-you-can eat vegetarian meal. Homemade lunches at the SITA center were even better. Food at my host family's house sometimes became repetitive, but was usually tasty.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

The students definitely stuck out in Madurai, but SITA did a good job encouraging us to explore. Practicing my limited Tamil with local restaurant workers and drivers helped. Also, the independent study brought me in contact with a group of Indian college students, which I enjoyed.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Health was not really an issue for me, though the program seemed prepared to deal with any problems. Some digestive distress should be expected, especially at the beginning of the semester. I did need a number of vaccines before embarking.

* Safety:

I felt more comfortable in Madurai than I do in much of New York City. SITA takes safety seriously, and there were no major incidents during my semester. There can be unwanted attention from locals, but the majority of it is benign. All this said, it was definitely easier to roam the city as a man.

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

Probably yes. Most of my complaints could have been better dealt with by pushing my own comfort zone further, rather than the program making significant changes. Madurai can be a difficult place to spend 4 months, but that is kind of the point.


* 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)

Things are extremely inexpensive ($1-2 for a great meal, $1-2 for a medium distance auto-rickshaw ride, $5-10 for a nice piece of clothing), and SITA provides a cash stipend. Without much effort, a student could go the entire semester without exceeding the stipend.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? Probably less than $20 beyond the stipend.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Public transportation can mean the difference between spending cents and dollars. Bargaining is part of the culture. ATMs can be somewhat difficult, but not impossible, to find and use.


* 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 encouragement was there, but the program was not language immersive. Most of my communication was done in English. There are boundless opportunities to practice Tamil with host families and other locals, but students must take the initiative. The Tamil class with Dr. Arun was great.

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
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? High School French
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? Just go for it, even though you will sound silly and people will be confused.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • 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?
  • Independent study
  • Learning mridangam (drum)
  • Exploring around South India
* What could be improved?
  • Revise the host family situation
  • Less time spent in the SITA center
  • Meet more local people
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? The program is extremely supportive, but I should not rely on them for everything. Explore as much as possible. Leave preconceived notions of a India behind and get to know Madurai in its complexities.

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 Nearly Native or Trail Blazer
Craving the most authentic experience possible, perhaps you lived with a host family or really got in good with the locals. You may have felt confined by your program requirements and group excursions. Instead, you'd have preferred to plan your own trips, even skipping class to conduct your own 'field work.'