Bangalore - a Worthwhile Life Experience Past Review

By (Business - Process Management and Consulting, The College of William and Mary) for

USAC India: Bengaluru – Culture, Society, and Global Perspectives

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Completely worthwhile! The friendships I forged were incredibly deep and my eyes were opened to a variety of cultures. I now feel much more confident in my ability to handle the unexpected as well as a greater sense of agency in my day to day life. In moving forward I'm also focusing on carrying over the patience as well as spontaneity I gained while in India.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

There was a lot less structure to the classes than is typical in a US university; in some classes assignments and exam dates fluctuated frequently whereas others were more consistent. While there is less homework overall, particularly reading, academics in India are extremely writing intensive. I'd recommend getting a feel for exams from students enrolled in normal courses at Christ as that will help you to prepare. I personally did not find it necessary to purchase the majority of the textbooks, although that may vary depending on the teacher. According to other students in the program checking out books from the library was a bit of a challenge, but I never needed to, most of my professors provided me with copies of the reading. Some of the classes, specifically Indian Culture, had multiple professors, which can be difficult to coordinate and frustrating from the student perspective. Teachers were generally very engaged with the class though, utilizing a combination of lecture and discussion; definitely ask questions. Be aware that there is a strict attendance policy - in fact one girl in our program had to leave the country because she voided her student visa by not attending - however I still found sufficient time to travel. And while some of the in-class academics were lacking I still learned a ton from the experience overall.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The program director, Jacob, was absolutely fantastic! My experience would not have been nearly as positive without him. Not only is he extremely knowledgeable about the area as well as student travel, but genuinely engages with students. He actually invited all of us to his home to celebrate one of the local festivals and was constantly involved and facilitating our exploration of Bangalore as well as India as a whole. Jacob is also an expert when it comes to food as well as trained in cooking, so definitely ask him to show you how to make chai. Pretty much I couldn't imagine a person better suited for the job.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

There were definitely little hiccups with the housing, like not having internet in all of the apartments for the first week or the washing machine breaking down, but that's true of everywhere in India; you just learn to go with the flow and be persistent. Although there's a handyman specifically for the USAC apartments, which does help to speed-up the process. I highly recommend that if a situation arises both contacting this handy-man directly as well as informing Jacob. My roommates were absolutely fantastic! Even though we were all American we came from diverse backgrounds and I learned as much from them as from my Indian friends. I felt very safe in NGV and the surrounding area, as long as you were with another person or two it was fine to wander in the evening. However in Bangalore everything shuts down around 11:30 because of a city ordinance pertaining to alcohol, which was actually nice because then we could go out for karaoke on a Wednesday night and not be exhausted for classes the next day. The program provides cups and plates, but you'll need to buy pots, knives, etc. but most of that is pretty cheap. We also ate out the majority of the time since it was so inexpensive, easy, and delicious, however others did cook a significant amount.

* Food:

The saghars are great for meals, very inexpensive, delicious, convenient, and most importantly authentic. I also highly recommend checking out the street food once you've given your system some time to adjust because it is a major part of the experience. In particular, the dosa stand between NGV and Christ is phenomenal, it's only out in the evenings, but you'll almost always see a big crowd around. Also wander down side streets to find food; there are so many great options it can be easy to stay in the same area, but exploring can be extremely fruitful.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

There are too many memorable cultural events to describe, so I'll highlight some of the most interesting as well as those more directly influenced by the program itself. For Onam, a harvest festival, our program director Jacob had us over to his home for a traditional meal, which was absolutely delicious! The program also organized a trip to Mysore, which encompassed a lot of fun and engaging activities. There was also an optional trip at the end of the program, which I would highly recommend. Jacob does a fabulous job of planning out the details and making sure it is a trip to remember. In my opinion, the optional trip at the end, which was to Kerala my session, was the perfect way to bring closure to the program. Outside of the program there were also countless holidays that you could become involved in, either at NGV (the apartments) or local temples.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

Bangalore and India as a whole were much safer than I had anticipated going into the program. While I wouldn't recommend walking around by yourself late at night, as long as you are in a group you should be totally fine. Keep an eye on your things, but most of the time a money belt is not necessary, although I did wear one while traveling in Delhi. Women should be conscious of different cultural norms, specifically that what we consider to be friendly may be considered flirting in the Indian context. I apologize that I can't be more specific than that, I never did figure out what particular behaviors were considered flirtatious, but it did seem to be a trend amongst the group's interactions with local guys our age. And to clarify, these guys were never physical or lewd, they were just persistent in their communications. I also would caution girls to dress conservatively, as in at least shorts and a t-shirt at the beach. With regards to health, I was fortunate enough to remain relatively healthy. However, for those who were not so lucky Jacob (the program director) and Ms. Florence (his assistant) were always extremely helpful. In particular, Ms. Florence has a doctor that I would highly recommend, while I would suggest avoiding St. John's Hospital as well as Pulse near NGV; both were poor at resolving issues and/or communicating. Definitely bring pepto bismal (of the variety you can carry with you), anti-diarrhea, anti-nausea, and cold medicine, as well as pain killers. Not that you will necessarily need all of these, but it's much, much better to be over prepared.

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)


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
Language acquisition improvement?

Almost everyone in Bangalore speaks English so getting around is by no means a problem. There were two full-time language courses, Sanskrit and Kannada, which I did not take as well as a three week Survival Hindi course. The Survival Hindi course was somewhat disappointing, it gave you a very basic introduction. I would recommend taking either of the full-time language courses. Based on what I heard from other students in the program it sounds like the Sanskrit and Kannada classes were useful. As in any study abroad experience, how well you learn the language is directly linked to how much effort you put into it, especially since you can get away with just using English the entire time.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The people - including my program director Jacob
  • Rich cultural experience
* What could be improved?
  • Volunteering could be more organized
  • Fewer teachers per class
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? You have to be open minded and willing to adjust in order to fully appreciate India. If you come in with a negative mindset, it's not going to be as enjoyable of a trip. The experience will open your mind to a more global perspective, give you the confidence to deal with the unexpected, and a greater appreciation for living life in the moment and to the fullest.