The Best Experience of My Life Past Review

By (Literature, SUNY Purchase) - abroad from 05/28/2012 to 07/02/2012 with

SUNY Purchase: Dharamsala - Summer Faculty-Led Program to India

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
This was the best experience of my life and completely changed me, as cliche as it sounds. I wasn't expecting to be so affected by it, but I was and I can't wait to go back to India again. I met the best people and got really close to everyone on the trip, though I didn't know any of them prior. Everything was perfect, and I have never been so happy as I was there. People's outlook is so different there, it's a lot more carefree and people don't get so angry and impatient, and we all took that on a lot when we were there. It is also the most difficult thing I have done. The first trek was definitely a huge challenge, but it was so worth it, and once you got to the top it was unbelievable. Also, the food we ate on the trek is what I miss the most. Rice pudding with fruit and coconut, dal and veggies, and chapati for lunch! Chapati is heaven.

Review Photos

SUNY Purchase: Dharamsala - Summer Faculty-Led Program to India Photo SUNY Purchase: Dharamsala - Summer Faculty-Led Program to India Photo SUNY Purchase: Dharamsala - Summer Faculty-Led Program to India Photo SUNY Purchase: Dharamsala - Summer Faculty-Led Program to India Photo SUNY Purchase: Dharamsala - Summer Faculty-Led Program to India Photo

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.

Everything I learned was from all of the wonderful people that I met and the beautiful places that we were able to visit. The actual academic course was not very informative, but we were able to go on a lot of field trips and meet medicine makers and doctors, which I think is more important than reading out of a book. The art class, Tibetan Wood Carving, was really fun and I definitely learned a lot from it. We were told that we were going to get our own carving kits though, and that never happened. It would be really nice if we did

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

I'm not sure exactly who this is referring to, but Philipa, our guide who planned out the entire trip and stayed with us the whole time, was the most amazing person in the world and was capable of figuring everything out and solving every problem. Whenever anyone was sick, she was the one who came to their room and brought them all the medicines they would need. In the morning she would come during breakfast and if we still didn't have our tea, she would go in the kitchen and tell them to hurry up. She had sleeping bags and water bottles for us to take on the trek, she was prepared for anything. This trip would be nothing without her.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I stayed at the Samdupling guest house, and it was the most amazing place. Much better than Norbulingka. The people running it were amazing and we would hang out to them all the time, they would throw us parties and play music and dance with us. Beautiful views, good food, comfortable rooms, and a great crystal store that is run by the hotel staff WHO ARE ALL CRYSTAL MASTERS.

* Food:

The food we ate at Norbulingka was Tibetan and for the most part made every person on the trip feel really really terrible and have bad stomach problems, but we also had to eat there every day so it was kind of rough. The food at Samdupling was good but you got kind of sick of it after a while because in Dharamsala those are the only two places to eat, other than this Indian restaurant called Tsampa, but that wasn't very good either. Other than that though, everywhere else we were taken to eat was really great, ate the most amazing Indian food, it is now all that I crave. So cheap too, each meal about $2

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Hung out with a lot of Tibetan students, were living in a small town so really got to know the people. Could only eat at touristy restaurants because it wasn't really safe for us to eat the food at other places, but that wasn't really a problem. I still talk to a lot of the locals I met on the trip, and I really miss them a lot. One guy who worked at our hotel, Tashi, was learning about crystals and so I would have him give me teachings and I would take notes. He was the best person, I miss him so much.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

We needed a lot of vaccines and it was pretty pricey/painful but no one other than a professor got seriously ill during the trip. Whenever anyone was sick they would be well taken care of by Philipa and the professors who would bring them medicine. Mainly, people had pretty bad stomach problems from the food.

* Safety:

I never felt unsafe. In MacLeod Ganj, the nearby city, men would sometimes yell at you or whistle or something, but they would never actually approach you. Beggars could sometimes be a little aggressive, but if you keep walking they leave you alone. You will definitely stand out being there though, and people will notice, but Philipa did a good job telling us ways in which to act and not let people take advantage of us when we were buying items. Also, it was never an actual threat, but some girls were getting seriously hit on by local guys, which at most was uncomfortable and weird.

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


* 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)

Everything is so cheap! This is the perfect place to go on a student's budget. Each meal is about $2 for a lot of food and we only had to buy one meal a day on our own. I brought $250 and lived very comfortably and brought back a lot of stuff.

* Was housing included in your program cost? Yes
* Was food included in your program cost? Yes
Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? Food/alcohol: $20-$25/week
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? In Delhi we went to FabIndia, which is a really expensive clothing store. Don't buy any clothes there if you're trying to save money, you can find it much cheaper in the towns. Make sure to not spend a lot of your money when you first arrive and they take you into the cities.


* 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 learned some Tibetan and Indian slang words, but everyone spoke English.

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? None
How many hours per day did you use the language? 0

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Hotel
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • Other
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • 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 places we visited
  • The people we met
  • The trek
* What could be improved?
  • Make it one or two weeks longer!
  • Go to Ladakh
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? What type of clothing you wear doesn't matter that much, as long as it's not inappropriate, like don't wear short shorts and a tank top. But many girls are wearing jeans and short sleeves shirts, so it's fine to wear your regular clothing. I ran out of clothes immediately because I didn't understand what was okay to wear and ended up only bringing like two maxi skirts.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

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The Avid Adventurer
The wardrobe you packed was better suited for a semester of camping than club hopping. Outdoorsy, you might forgo a crazy night out for an early all-day adventure. You'd rather take in the rich culture of an old town than the metropolis of a modern city, but for you getting off the grid is ideal.