Ask an Alum: Why Study Abroad in Hyderabad, India?
There are many decisions that go into studying abroad: when should you go abroad, and for how long? For many students, however, the most difficult decision is choosing where to go.
CIEE has study abroad programs in more than 60 cities and 40 countries, and each program offers a unique set of cultural experiences and course offerings. We’re asking alumni of CIEE study abroad programs to tell us about how the decided on their study abroad location, and to reflect on their decision-making process.
Today, we’re highlighting responses from alumni of our Hyderabad, India program:
Any person who wishes to understand humanity cannot do so until they have visited a place like India
Photo Credit: Jack Hernandez
India has more people than all of Europe combined; more languages and more alphabets practiced daily within it than most countries (and perhaps most continents); vast biological and geographical variation; numerous religions, dishes, modes of transportation, clothing norms, and overall culture; that it is easy to conclude that India is one of the most diverse countries in the world. That being said, I cannot speak of India in general terms. It would be an injustice to say that I could predicate my experiences in the country accurately with only a couple of sentences. However, I can say that I saw, heard, tasted, smelled, and felt things that I had not experienced before, and that any person who wishes to understand humanity cannot do so until they have visited a place like India.
- Jack, CIEE Study Abroad in Hyderabad, Fall 2014
Once you've been to India, you'll have the confidence to go anywhere
When people asked why I chose India for my study abroad, I could never help but respond, "why not?" It had always seemed like such an amazing place in all the National Geographic magazines I flipped through as a kid, and struggled more to find a reason not to go.
Martha Tate in Varanasi, a city a few miles north of Hyderabad
India is the most dynamic, intense, fantastically overwhelming places in the world, but I was too afraid to travel there alone. Being able to experience India through the safety of the CIEE program and the University in Hyderabad was the perfect way to find my footing on what turned out to be the most influential adventure of my life. Every breath I took in that country taught me more than any classroom ever has, and launched me into an intense expedition of the rest of the world post-graduation. Once you've been to India, you'll have the confidence to go anywhere. After scouring Europe, living for a year and half in China, and exploring most of Southeast Asia, India continues to be the most incredible country I've had the opportunity to visit. No one visits India and returns unchanged. I would recommend it to anyone with an open mind, a spirit for adventure, and a desire to find out who they really are."
- Martha, CIEE Study Abroad in Hyderabad, Spring 2009
To completely lift me from my Western comfort zone
Photo: Mary (center) tries her hand at charming a cobra in Jaipur.
I knew I wanted to go to India because I wanted my study abroad experience to completely lift me from my Western comfort zone. And it certainly did! I was definitely stretched to many of my limits in India, but I wouldn't hesitate to say that it's made me a stronger, more empathetic and open-minded person. India is a place of rich history, rich colors, and people who are rich in spirit.
Photo: Mary traveled with CIEE friends to the Golden Triangle during her last three weeks in India.
Let me give you anecdote that sums up my time there. One day, I was cranky and unpleasant: the buses were running late; I'd twisted my ankle walking; a thousand other tiny things. I took a rickshaw home, and I shared it with a family of three. The little girl sitting on her mother's lap touched my arm and smiled at me, and her mother was so happy that I smiled back that she spent the rest of the ride braiding my hair with flowers she had in a sack on her arm. It was hard not to be in love with India.
- Mary, CIEE Study Abroad in Hyderabad, Spring 2013
Photo credit: Jack Hernandez, Fall 2014
Beautiful, shocking, and completely different than anything I had ever experienced
I chose to study in India not because I had any prior knowledge or any real interest in Indian culture, but because I wanted to push the boundaries of my comfort zone. And that's exactly what I got - a country that's beautiful, shocking, and completely different than anything I had ever experienced before. Through my own adventures and the great courses offered by CIEE, I developed a fascination with Indian culture and the conclusion of my semester left me hungry for more. The CIEE staff is a great bunch, and I was so happy that they had my back. I still miss them and chat via Facebook now and then just to say hi. With Hyderabad as a base, I was able to affordably travel all over the country on weekends, from the luscious backwaters of Kerala to the holy Ganges in Varanasi. I experienced a million new sights, sounds, and smells, and I can say it was the most transformative semester during my college career.
- Dan, CIEE Study Abroad in Hyderabad, Spring 2012
Living in India made me appreciate the beauty in complexity
Photo credit: Jack Hernandez, Fall 2014
I love India because it would be easy to hate it. It is easy to shudder at the clamor, the dust, and the poverty. But to only focus on these aspects is to ignore the infinite beauty and complexity that make India so incredible. When we all first arrived in Hyderabad, it was hard to not feel dizzy and overwhelmed, but the endless support and encouragement from the CIEE staff not only helped us find our way, but also inspired us to explore the fascinating culture we were immersed in. With CIEE’s support, we realized that the true beauty of India is not the peaceful yoginis and stereotypical snake charmers in the exotified images Westerners so commonly think of, and neither is it the poverty and dirt we are so quick to point out. Rather, it is how these two worlds co-exist—the temples and the slums, the dust brown roads and the rainbow saris and scarves, the sequins and jewels that bedazzle the hems of the all-black burqas. The spiritual murmur of India runs beneath even the busiest of cities. Living in India made me appreciate the beauty in complexity, in contradictions, and the infinite vastness of the world. I am still so impressed by CIEE’s genuine desire to enrich students’ lives by helping them explore the world.
- Selena, CIEE Study Abroad in Hyderabad, Fall 2013
I wanted to go somewhere that I knew nothing about
I chose Hyderabad because I wanted to go somewhere that I knew nothing about. CIEE Hyderabad challenged me to learn more about the world, myself, and the assumptions we carry around with us. Over the course of the semester most of the ideas I had in my head about India were completely flipped on their head - which is a marker of an incredible experience! Today I live in Hyderabad with my husband. I am finishing up my PhD in sociocultural anthropology and my research takes place in Hyderabad. I have grown to love this city, its history, and its people immensely over the last decade.
- Kate, CIEE Study Abroad in Hyderabad, Fall 2006
My semester in Hyderabad was a perfect launch into a future career of research and exploration
Photo credit: Emily Schueller
I have been fascinated with India since I was a child, so I jumped at the opportunity to study abroad in India with CIEE! I loved living in Hyderabad and having access to so many diverse people, places, and way of life. I could spend an afternoon exploring old palaces and then meet a friend at a gleaming new mall for dinner. I learned so much about India, its people, and even myself by studying abroad, and with CIEE, I always had guidance and help when I needed it. Through studying abroad, I became comfortable with handling myself in India, and I have returned to India twice through research and language study fellowships. My semester in Hyderabad was a perfect launch into a future career of research and exploration in India. It truly was an eye-opening and life-altering opportunity.
- Emily, CIEE Study Abroad in Hyderabad, Spring 2013
About Hyderabad: Hyderabad, known as the City of Pearls, is the fourth-largest cosmopolitan city in India and is at the heart of India’s rapidly developing global economy. The city, once ruled by bejeweled Nizams from opulent palaces, is now a global hub for biotechnology, animation, information technology, amazing food, and a travel destination for domestic travelers looking to absorb its unique architecture and art. The city is a mix of construction, music, clothing shops, traffic, food bazaars, department stores, global businesses, and urban sprawl. It is the capital of the southern state of Telangana and embodies the juxtapositions of old and new, north and south, Hindu and Muslim. It’s home to offices for Microsoft, Google, and other tech giants – and also to ruins of the magnificent 13th-century Golconda Fort and iconic Charminar monument in the Old City.
Learn more about CIEE’s study abroad programs in Hyderabad here.