Great experience, a challenge that pays off Past Review

By (Kenyon College) - abroad from 08/15/2016 to 11/27/2016 with

South India Term Abroad - SITA

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I got a lot out of my trip. As a History and Asian Studies major, this really solidified all my learnings. It gave me a new way to think about caste, gender, religion, and environment in India. It definitely wasn't what I imagined, but the experience taught me a lot about Tamil culture as well as myself.

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.

SITA does a good job of blanking educational learning in the classroom with learning outside the classroom. The classes were not overwhelming, and I felt like I was given many opportunities to learn outside the classroom.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

I think the SITA Staff are one of the highlights of this program. They were incredibly supportive and there for the students for any issues, big or small. The administrators were available via phone at any time and made it very clear that the students were their main concern.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived with a host family, and while it is somewhat awkward at first, I felt this really added to my experience. By the end I was sorry to leave my host family. I had my own room and bathroom.

* Food:

Amazing food, I miss it so much.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I think that the language barrier was definitely something that prevented me from really integrating. However, I got to meet a wide variety of people and interacted with students from other local universities.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I never used the health care system, but I didn't hear of any problems. The program directors make sure to accompany students to the hospital in case of emergency. However, it is a very different system from what I understand.

* Safety:

I think Madurai is a really safe environment for students, as India goes. The program was very concerned with our safety, and by following their instructions I never felt like I was in any particularly unsafe situations. There are some considerations here--for example, not going out past 9pm, and dealing with catcalling, but I found this more of a nuisance than a threat to my safety.

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

I did a lot of research before choosing SITA. I wanted an experience that would be safe, where I would have support from the program administrators, and where I could really experience the culture, language, and way of life. I was satisfied on all these accounts. Living in India isn't an easy transition, but I think SITA does a great job accommodating students and trying to make it as enjoyable as possible without losing the integration into everyday lifestyle.


* 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)

I spent very little of my own money on anything outside of gifts. The program provides a stipend, and it's very easy to get all your food from that budget.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? ~$5-10


* 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

We were expected to go out and use the language as much as possible.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
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? Introduction to Tamil
How many hours per day did you use the language?

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?
  • The people-Host families, students, and administrators
  • Food
  • Opportunities to engage
* What could be improved?
  • Some classes could be better organized
  • Volunteer aspect still needs to be worked out
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I think I was lucky in that I had studied the country and culture before coming to India, so it wasn't such a hard transition because I kind of knew what to expect. That said, culture shock is real, and I think it's really important that people know the gender norms, racial tensions, cultural expectations, and developmental situation before they come to any program in India, including SITA.