While students in Oxford this semester see lots of snow, the Hub and a healthy dose of North Face jackets while they walk to class, students taking part in Miami University’s new Semester in India program see monkeys, peacocks and wild boars at the University of Hyderabad.
The 14 students come from a wide variety of majors, from diplomacy and foreign affairs to zoology to philosophy. While in India, they take classes taught in English by Indian professors. They take classes in Modern Indian Political Thought, Gandhian Philosophy, language courses in Hindi, Urdu and Sanskrit, and even the Philosophy of Yoga.
The Semester in India program is a part of Miami’s effort to introduce more challenging study abroad programs to its students, according to David Keitges, Miami’s director of international education. However, these more challenging programs are not for everyone.
“Where a student studies abroad depends on their level of courage,” Keitges said. “You have to step out and see who you are.”
Miami students currently studying at Hyderabad said the experience has been beneficial so far.
“I had already traveled to Europe, and while there is much left for me to learn there, I wanted a vastly new cultural experience,” sophomore James Greathouse said via e-mail.
The idea of a Semester in India program came about years ago when the director of the program, Rama Rao Pappu, a philosophy professor at Miami, visited Hyderabad and saw American students studying there.
“When our Provost, Jeff Herbst, announced Miami’s transition from a ‘well-kept secret’ to ‘global Miami,’ I got excited about the internationalization of Miami and started exploring the possibility of launching a ‘Semester in India’ program,” Pappu said via e-mail.
Pappu is now in Hyderabad with his wife, teaching three classes there to both Miami and non-Miami students.
Keitges explained that the program is intended to take place every spring semester. Pappu hopes that the program will grow to have 20 to 25 students within the next couple of years.
The University of Hyderabad is a campus about the size of Miami with about 3,000 students situated in the 400-year-old city of Hyderabad. The university itself is secluded from the bustling urban setting.
“So far we have been traveling every weekend to some historic monuments and some ‘modern’ tourist spots like the ‘Ramoji Film City,’ which stretches over a number of miles and where a number of Telugu and Hindi movies are made,” Pappu said.
Later in the semester, Pappu will take the students on excursions to larger cities in India, including New Delhi and Jaipur.
The students live with around 65 American students and five international faculty members in the Tagore International House, an international student residence hall, where specially prepared food and Wi-Fi internet access is given to the students.
According to sophomore Elizabeth Garrett, becoming immersed in the Indian culture is a slow but educational process.
“I’m slowly becoming more acquainted with the way Indians
function and interact,” Garrett said.
Some things, of course, will take some getting used to.
“There are no lines in India,” senior Charles Slife said. “All situations are like Bagel and Deli on a Friday night.”
Pappu said his wife has been particularly helpful for the women studying abroad.
“My wife keeps in touch with them, takes them shopping and answers all questions on the dos-and-don’ts for girls in this culture,” Pappu said.
Applications for the program will be accepted next fall, Pappu said. Applicants are selected based upon their interest in studying in India and in the courses offered by the University of Hyderabad.
“Our students tell me that though they had no ‘natural interest’ in studying in India, they came here because of me, and having come here most of them tell me they would like to come back again and again after they go back to USA,” Pappu said.
“It is impossible to describe how unique of an experience this program is. (It is) unparalleled in cross-cultural education … I know that this experience molds my character on a daily basis and I would not rather be anywhere else. Especially cold Oxford,” Slife said.