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You are about to embark on the experience of a lifetime - one of exploration and discovery, great learning, cultural immersion, and new friendships. The Alliance staff wants you to get the most out of your experience and we know that you have many questions. These materials will help you to prepare in advance for your time abroad.
Print your pre-departure checklist here: Pune Pre-Departure Checklist
If you have questions that are not addressed on our website, please do not hesitate to contact us by phone or email.
Anna Stewart, Student Services Manager
The Alliance for Global Education
450 S. Easton Rd. / Glenside, PA 19038
Phone: 202-822-0032 / Toll Free: 888-232-8379
To complete these online forms, log in using your last name and your Alliance Student ID number. Then, select the form you wish to complete, fill it all of the required fields completely, and hit “submit” when you are finished.
The Alliance for Global Education Phone: 1-888-232-8379
450 S. Easton Road Fax: 215-572-2174
Glenside, PA 19038-3295 Email: email@example.com
All Alliance students are responsible for reviewing and familiarizing themselves with the policies outlined in the Alliance Policy Handbook.
You are also expected to acquaint yourselves with the recommendations, rules, and cultural expectations outlined in the Pune Student Handbook prior to departure.
Additional forms you will be asked to sign at orientation are the Academic Policies Contract and Student Behavior Contract. Please also be sure to familiarize yourself with possible Disciplinary Sanctions following from a breach of these expectations.
Students are responsible for booking their own airline tickets to India. See "Program Calendar" for arrival and departure dates. Only these dates should be used when making any travel plans and it is mandatory for all students to attend their in-country Alliance orientation at the beginning of the program.
Students are required to arrive in Mumbai between 8:00pm and 12:00am (midnight) on their program start date. All students should fly to Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai, IN. The airport code is BOM.
Regarding your flight home, make sure to book your flight after 5:00pm on the scheduled departure day listed on the program calendar. We don't want you to miss the Closing Ceremony which is held the evening before your return flight.
The Alliance for Global Education partners with Student Universe to provide discounted student fares. For more information about Student Universe, to view recommended flights, and to book a flight with them online, visit http://www.studentuniverse.com/travel/allianceindia.
If you are flying from the U.S., most flights will arrive in India on the day after they depart from the U.S. Be sure to confirm that your flight is arriving on your program start date. Once you have booked your flight, be sure to complete and submit your Flight Form.
Other websites to browse for discounted tickets are below.
If you consult a travel agent, be sure to ask about student rates, as well as taxes and other fees. It is also recommended to confirm the fees involved if you would like to change your return date to the U.S.
Students arriving within the mandatory time window in India will be met at the airport by the Pune program's Resident Director and transported to a Mumbai hotel. For this purpose, you MUST communicate your travel plans to the Alliance before you depart for India.
After you leave the customs area and exit to the main arrival hall at the airport, look for the Alliance Resident Director holding a sign that says "The Alliance for Global Education." Students will stay for their first night with their fellow participants and the Alliance staff in Mumbai before traveling to the orientation site the following morning.
You will likely experience jet lag during your first few days in India. To help you adjust to the time difference, try to sleep on the plane and drink a lot of water during your trip and after you arrive. Do not consume alcohol or drinks with much caffeine.
Additional arrival details will be provided to participating students.
If you will already be in country or will arrive earlier than the official program start date, it is your responsibility to report to the hotel in Mumbai for the commencement of the program. Alliance staff in India will not be able to assist students before the start of the program.
Students planning to stay in Pune or travel in India beyond the official program end date should research all of the required visa and registration requirements before arriving in India. Alliance staff in India will not be able to assist students after the program ends.
A mandatory orientation led by your onsite Resident Directors will take place after arrival in Mumbai.
Alliance students will be permitted only one checked bag and one carry-on. We will be traveling by van to the orientation site, and there are space restrictions for how much baggage can be brought on board.
We also strongly recommend that your one checked bag be a big backpack. Sidewalks are rare in India, and with train and bus travel as well, backpacks are much more manageable than large rolling suitcases.
Please plan on dressing modestly during your time in India. Though Pune is a modern university town, and you will no doubt see some Indian students wearing jeans and tank tops, as a foreigner you will want to minimize the kinds of unwanted attention you might receive. Furthermore, for your internship and directed research you should be prepared to dress in manner appropriate to more traditional contexts.
This means just following a few basic rules of thumb: shoulders should be covered, pants and skirts mid-calf or ankle-length, necklines not too low, all clothes fairly loose (though fitted is fine), and fabrics opaque. Layering is always a good idea: having tank tops, camisoles, and slips under fabrics that might be translucent, tops that are hip-length, and cotton scarves or shawls to throw over your shoulders. Often linen pants are very comfortable, and if you are in Pune during monsoon season you should bring pants that can be rolled above your ankle. You should also bring one pair of jeans for any weekend excursions that might include hiking or similar activities. In a university or metropolitan setting, modestly-fitting jeans and leggings are also acceptable when worn under more traditional hip-length tunics. Shorts are not appropriate, even in your homestay.
Most women students end up buying a lot of local clothing, or even better, having outfits tailor-made! The traditional Indian salwar kameez outfits that you'll see most women wearing are always comfortable, attractive, inexpensive, practical, and appropriate.
Men may have things a bit easier when it comes to clothing, but there are a few things to keep in mind as you’re packing. Shorts are not appropriate, especially not for internships, documenatary film, or directed research. Same goes for T-shirts. Most men in India wear lightweight, collared shirts with cotton pants. You should also bring one pair of jeans for any weekend excursions that might include hiking or similar activities. As with the women, remember that your experiences in India will be enhanced if you are dressed appropriately to the local context.
Underwear: Bring plenty of underwear! All hosts will provide a way for the laundry to be done as often you need it, however, if you are in Pune during a drought there, obviously, won’t be an abundance of water so you will probably cut back on the frequency of doing your wash. Also, in most cases your laundry will be hung up in public areas to dry, so try to bring modest cuts and solid colors as not to draw attention. Cotton underwear is typically best for the hot climate.
Sweater/Outerwear: Even in December and January, Pune has a lovely climate, so one sweater, sweatshirt, or fleece should suffice unless you are planning on traveling to North India after the program. For travel and the rainy season, it is good to pack one lightweight shell or waterproof jacket.
Sun hat/sunglasses: Indian sun is strong, so be sure to bring adequate protection.
Dress clothes: Chances are good that you will be invited to at least one Indian wedding or other celebration while you are in India, so you'll want at least one nice outfit to wear. Women, this could be your opportunity to buy your first sari, but if you do also want to bring something from home, keep in mind the above guidelines here, too.
Please be sure to bring a full semester’s supply of any prescription medication you require. Most medications are available in Pune, but certain brand names may not be available or there might be slight variations, so bring as much of any required medication as you will need for the duration of your stay.
Most everyday toiletries are available in Pune, but you’ll still want to start out with a basic supply (a few weeks' worth) of the following:
Program dates roughly follow the U.S. academic calendar:
The 16–17 week semester begins with an on-site orientation at a retreat location outside Pune. Two long weekends are built into the calendar for an urban field visit to Mumbai and a rural village visit, respectively. In addition, there are several day-outings to various points of interest in and around Pune. One weekend is set aside for independent travel, and students may choose to travel elsewhere on the subcontinent after the program ends. The semester concludes with a final two-day seminar where research is presented and discussed, and students are prepared for their return home.
Given the program’s busy academic schedule, weekly local activities and excursions, and field study trips, the Alliance STRONGLY DISCOURAGES students from hosting visitors until the end of the semester. Please encourage family and/or friends to visit AFTER the program has ended. Students should make their travel plans accordingly.
19 January 2014 Flight departure from U.S.
20 January 2014 Arrival in India
21 January 2014 Travel to Durshet – Orientation begins
13 May 2014 Closing Ceremony
14 May 2014 Return flight to U.S. (after 5:00 p.m.)
15 June 2014 Flight departure from U.S.
16 June 2014 Arrival in India
17 June 2014 Travel to Durshet – Orientation begins
01 August 2014 Closing Ceremony
02 August 2014 Return flight to U.S. (after 5:00 p.m.)
24 August 2014 Flight departure from U.S.
25 August 2014 Arrival in India
26 August 2014 Travel to Durshet – Orientation begins
16 December 2014 Closing Ceremony
17 December 2014 Return flight to U.S. (after 5:00 p.m.)
In order to study within India, all students are required to obtain a student visa. You will not be permitted to enter India without securing a visa in advance, so it is imperative that you complete the visa application process before you depart.
Instructions on how to obtain your student visa from BLS International are listed below. Please read through this information carefully. These instructions are intended for US citizens. If you are not a citizen of the United States, please contact your Program Manager for assistance.
Please remember that it is your responsibility to ensure that the appropriate visa is obtained for participation in the Contemporary India program.
Download and complete the AIIS Student Visa Authorization Form from the Alliance for Global Education website. Return this document to your Program Manager as part of your initial application. Your student visa sponsorship will be based on this information. For question 15, you must list the consulate that corresponds to the address on your driver's license or a major utility bill. Please refer to the consulate jurisdiction and contact details listed below to determine your corresponding Indian Visa Application Center.
Upon acceptance to the Alliance program and with AIIS’s approval, your Student Visa Sponsorship Letter will be sent to you via UPS approximately six weeks prior to your program departure date. You cannot proceed with your student visa application without this letter.
Do NOT proceed to Step 2 to initiate the online India Visa Application form until you have received this UPS package.
Complete the Online India Visa Application posted on the BLS International website and book an appointment. An appointment is requird to submit your visa application materials in person. DO NOT select the postal option on BLS's website as students have experienced significant delays when using this option in the past. If you are unable to submit your visa materials in person, please contact your Program Manager.
We recommend that you download and study the sample visa application form before completing the actual visa application form. The BLS website is best viewed using Internet Explorer. Please note that the application form must be completed without mistakes. You will need to fill out the form again if a mistake is found.
AFTER THE ONLINE APPLICATION HAS BEEN COMPLETED, YOU MUST PRINT AND SIGN THE APPLICATION. The form should be printed on two separate sheets of paper. Two sided-printing will not be accepted by BLS.
You will submit your visa application form and additional requirements IN-PERSON to the appropriate Indian Visa Application Center that you have identified for your region in Step 1. The processing of visa applications is jurisdictional, so you must submit your materials to your assigned application center, which is dictated by your present location. Please see addresses below.
MAKE A COPY OF ALL VISA APPLICATION FORMS AND MATERIALS FOR YOUR RECORDS
BLS does not guarantee processing time. Incomplete/incorrect applications will increase the processing time. Use the following link to check the status of your application.
For more information about the visa application process for India, please see BLS International’s website or contact a BLS office directly by telephone or email.
Before you leave the BLS Application Center, make sure that you have the correct visa:
Scan your visa upon receipt. Keep a copy for your records, and send a copy to your Program Manager via email.
New York, NY
BLS India Visa, USA
East 37th Street,
6th Floor, Building 13
(Between 5th and Madison Avenues)
New York, NY 10016
BLS India Visa, USA
55 West Van Buren St.,
Suite 330, Third Floor
Chicago, IL 60605
BLS India Visa, USA
1235 North Loop West
Suite 515, Level 5
Houston, TX 77008
BLS India Visa, USA
220 I Street NE,
Ste. 100, 110
Washington, DC 20002
District of Columbia
San Francisco, CA
BLS India Visa, USA
4239 Geary Blvd,
San Francisco, CA 94118
BLS India Visa, USA
5775 Glenridge Dr.
Building B, Suite 380
Atlanta, GA 30328
Here are our answers to some frequently asked questions about passports and visas. If you still can't find what you're looking for, we're happy to talk to you!
YES!!!! Please visit the U.S. State Department travel pages for the most up-to-date information regarding passport application and fees. If you don't have a passport, you should apply for one immediately when you begin to think about studying abroad.
In addition to a valid passport, you are also required to secure a student visa to enter India. A visa is an official document/seal that is glued into your passport that permits you to enter the country.
Instructions accompanying your visa application forms will tell you how to apply by mail.
You first need a valid passport. You can't apply for your visa until you receive a Student Visa Authorization letter from the Alliance, sponsored by the American Institute for Indian Studies (AIIS). These visa documents are sent to students according to the following timeline, and this mailing will also include detailed instructions on how to apply for your visa.
YES. Please make a copy of all visa-related paperwork
The Alliance's sponsorship of your student visa cannot be extended for travel, research, or volunteer conducted outside its auspices. Students planning to stay in Pune or travel in India beyond the official program end date should research all of the required visa and registration requirements before arriving in India. Alliance staff in India will not be able to assist students after the program ends.
Yes, this is usually possible, but visa regulations are constantly changing and can be complicated. It is best to check with your Resident Director before making any plans.
The first step to staying healthy in India is to fully disclose any pre-existing health issues or concerns on the Medical Form before you go. This allows Alliance to be sure that your needs can be accommodated in the local context, and to anticipate any care that you might require.
Failure to fully disclose any and all physical or mental preconditions might not only impact our ability to provide adequate care in India, it might be grounds for you to be sent home. Please know that all medical information is treated confidentially by Alliance staff, and shared only on a need-to-know basis.
All students enrolled in an Alliance program automatically receive insurance. The Alliance’s plan is offered through HTH Worldwide and underwritten by BCS Insurance Company, Oakbrook Terrace, IL. The plan also provides for political and natural disaster evacuation services with Drum Cussac (DRUM). The plan is effective throughout the duration of the participant's program. There is no deductible per injury or illness, and the maximum medical expenses of the policy for accident or sickness is $500,000. Additional information about the HTH Worldwide plan will be emailed to students upon acceptance and enrollment in an Alliance program.
Personalized information and support for participants about health care and prescription medication is available through "Well Prepared" at www.hthstudents.com. HTH Worldwide will send an e-mail to accepted Alliance students automatically prior to departure. The e-mail will contain information about coverage, the individual ID number and certificate number with HTH. Students can then print an ID card and activate a "Well Prepared" profile.
HTH Worldwide also has a website which includes information for parents. Parents can go to www.hthparents.com and create a sign-in with their son's or daughter's e-mail address. Parent(s) have access to provider information and health and safety services. In order for a parent to have access to any personalized information on "Well Prepared," they must request access online from their son or daughter.
A copy of the Alliance's insurance certificate with HTH Worldwide is available here.
An outline of the political and natural disaster services with Drum Cussac (DRUM) is available here.
Please contact Katie Ryan, Enrollment Counselor and Program Manager, India, via email or at 888-232-8379. Your Resident Director will also provide information during orientation about where to seek medical attention in Pune.
Staying safe in India involves many of the same behaviors as staying safe anywhere in the world. Be aware of who and what is around you, avoid putting yourself in risky situations, and dress and behave in culturally appropriate ways in order to avoid making yourself a target.
Another component of personal safety that students often neglect is road safety, which is actually the number one cause of American fatalities overseas. India in particular has very high rates of road-related fatalities, and students should maintain high vigilance as they are walking (on streets which rarely have sidewalks), speak up if you are in a vehicle with a driver who is behaving recklessly, and use seatbelts wherever available.
Alliance resident staff will provide a thorough orientation to personal safety matters, with local and culture-specific tips for minimizing risk. We want you to stay safe and healthy throughout your study abroad experience, so please never hesitate to let Alliance staff know if you have any concerns about your health or safety.
Paying attention to the food and water you consume is the number one way to stay healthy in India. You'll be given a thorough overview of do's and don'ts during your onsite orientation, and travel guides such as the Lonely Planet offer good standard rules to live by, but the first rule of thumb is: HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE! Dehydration is a leading cause for students having to seek medical attention, and is the most easily preventable.
Of course, you want to make sure that the water you consume does not make you sick. Filtered water will be available at the program center and in your housing placements. Plan to carry a plastic bottle around with you to fill up wherever you can, and to always have handy. When you are eating out or traveling on your own, always ask for bottled water instead of drinking whatever is provided to you. Bottled water is inexpensive and widely available.
Also pay attention as you are showering--try not to let the tap water inadvertently pass your lips--and when you are brushing your teeth, use filtered or bottled water.
Be aware of plates or glasses that are still wet, and watch out for juice drinks that have water blended into them--even ice cream scoops left in water can be the cause of great discomfort. Coffee and tea are always safe choices, as they have been boiled. Soft drinks, too, are a safe bet.
For food, fruits and salads are the main culprits. Rule of thumb: if it is cooked, it is okay. Another rule of thumb: if it can be peeled, then peel it and it should be okay. Grapes, for example, are not a good idea, nor the tempting salad fixings you may see.
That said, chances are good that at some point you will succumb to something food or water-borne. In most cases, though it will not be fun, it will pass within 48-72 hours. The key is to keep yourself well-hydrated to flush it out of your system. Many students like to bring Emergen-C electrolyte packets with them from the U.S. to help combat dehydration, either heat- or stomach-related.
As with all health-related matters, keep the resident staff fully informed about how you're feeling, even if you don't think it's anything serious. Our staff is familiar with the kinds of medical issues U.S. students experience in India, and it is important that they be able to keep tabs on how you are doing.
If you plan to take any prescription drugs while in India, we recommend that you take a supply to last you the entire term. Also, pack a prescription from your doctor for any medications you take to India. This is an extra precaution in case your luggage is searched and you need to verify why you are bringing the medication with you. If you plan to purchase any medication in India, you will need to present a copy of your prescription and see an Indian physician to obtain a new one. While most prescriptions and medications are available in India, it is best to bring all of the specific medications you think you will need for the term with you.
Bringing enough prescription medication is particularly important as prescription medication and even over-the-counter drugs are often held up in customs when shipped from the U.S. The student health insurance program (HTH Worldwide) can help with prescription drug replacement/shipment if needed.
If you wear prescription eyeglasses, you should bring a copy of your prescription. It is easy and inexpensive to have glasses made in India. Contact lenses and solutions are also available in India, though not all brands you are familiar with will be available.
Vaccinations are not required for entry to India, but we recommend that you consult the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website and consult with your physician to determine which vaccines you may need. You should also make sure that all of your regular immunizations are up to date. The CDC also operates an international traveler's hotline that provides up-to-date vaccination requirements for any region or country you select. The number is 1-877-FYI-TRIP (394-8747).
We strongly encourage you to obtain insurance against theft and/or damage to your personal effects for the period of time you will be abroad. The Alliance for Global Education does not provide insurance for your possessions, nor do we provide travel insurance for any travel arrangements made by individual students. It is a good idea to check first with your home insurance provider to see what is already covered, how coverage might be extended, and the possibility of Renter’s Insurance for your time abroad if your program houses you in apartments.
The electrical current in India is 220 volts, 50 cycles whereas the US is 110V/60Hz. If your appliances are not dual voltage (110/220V) you will need a voltage converter or transformer, which can be purchased in India a few weeks after your arrival. If you require the immediate use of your lap top or other appliance, however, we recommend that you bring a voltage converter from home, as well as a plug adapter.
It is easy to purchase appliances (such as a hair dryer) that use the correct Indian electrical current after you arrive. A picture of the most common outlets in India can be found here. Please note that power strips allowing you to plug in your computer and other hardware of variously pronged plug types are readily available at many stores and they are inexpensive. These are not power adapters, but they do allow you to plug in almost anything.
India's currency is the rupee. At the time of writing, USD $1 = INR Rs 52.
It is best to change money in banks, hotels, and other authorized locations to which our resident staff will direct you. Do not under any circumstances exchange money on the black market. This is illegal, it may put you in an unsafe environment, and you may receive fake money. ATMs are also widely available around town, and are addressed in more detail below. The best approach overall is to have several different sources of obtaining funds in case cards, cash, or travelers checks are lost, stolen, or not viable in a given location.
Credit cards are becoming widely accepted in India, but generally in larger stores or in nicer hotels and restaurants. In Varanasi most everyday money transactions in India still take place in cash. It is always a good idea to have one or two credit cards on you for emergencies, for travel outside of your host city, and/or for any higher-end shopping you might want to do, but don't plan on using them around town as you might in the U.S. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted, American Express less so. Some vendors accepting credit cards will add an additional 2-3% to the purchase price with a credit card payment and require a photocopy of your passport.
A convenient way to withdraw money from your account at home is to use an ATM card that has a VISA or MasterCard logo. You should not rely on ATMs as your only source of cash as they may not always work, but in general this is your best bet for getting the best exchange rate, and for avoiding having too much cash on you (or stashed at home) that could be lost or stolen.
Be sure to carry the PIN number in a safe place separately from your card, and also confirm with your bank that your ATM card will work internationally. It is best to test your card in the U.S. before you leave. We also advise that you call your bank or credit card company to let them know that you will be using the card in India. Sometimes banks may obstruct card transactions overseas in the interest of customer security. Also be sure that you are aware of any international withdrawal charges that your bank or credit card company might charge for these transactions.
The Alliance for Global Education, Pune Program
Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics
Room No. 126, UGC building
846, Shivajinagar, Deccan Gymkhana, BMCC Road
Pune 411004 India
All student parcels should be sent to this address, not to student residences. Please be sure not to send any items of value or medications, as these may increase the risk of theft or be held up in Indian customs.
Director of International Operations: Jonathan Ferguson
Enrollment Counselor and Program Manager: Katie Ryan
If you are experiencing an emergency outside of US business hours, please dial our 24/7 Public Safety number at 1-215-572-2900 and await instruction from the operator. You will then be contacted by an Alliance member who will assist you.
It is most convenient to have all of your mail, including FedEx packages, sent to you at the Alliance Program Center, where packages can be received during the day. Regular airmail takes approximately two-three weeks to arrive in India from the U.S.
Please note that nothing of value should be sent, especially through regular mail. It is common for packages to be opened and for anything of value to be taken.
C/O: The Alliance for Global Education, Pune Program
Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics
Room No. 126, UGC building
846, Shivajinagar, Deccan Gymkhana, BMCC Road
Pune 411004 India
There is only one time zone in India: 10.5 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. When it is 10:00 pm in New York on Wednesday, it is 8:30 am in India on Thursday.
When Daylight Savings Time begins in March, India is only 9.5 hours ahead, as India does not observe Daylight Savings Time. Thus, when it is 10:00 pm in New York on Wednesday, it is 7:30 am in India on Thursday.
During orientation, you will receive more information about how to call home. Host families may have landlines, but you should not use them except in emergencies. Using Internet telephone booths is generally the least expensive way to call home from India, and you are able to receive calls at these calling centers as well. Students may also wish to contact their U.S. long distance carrier before they depart the U.S. and request an international calling guide. Keep in mind that using calling cards purchased in the U.S. is more expensive than using local options.
As with most of the world, cell phones are now the most common way to communicate in India. The Alliance will provide all students with a pre-paid cell phone on arrival. You will be responsible for maintaining a balance on your phone, and value can be easily added at nearby shops. Incoming calls and text messages on Indian cell phones are usually free. Reliance India offers inexpensive calling cards to India from the U.S., as well as a service that allows a U.S. number to be forwarded to an Indian cell phone at reduced rates.
Two student computers and general internet access are provided at the Alliance Program Center for academic use. For personal use, internet cafes are widely available and inexpensive or you may consider purchasing a broadband data stick, which connects via a computer’s USB port. Students will be able to purchase this connection during the second week of the program and should budget approximately $60 to purchase the data stick and the first recharge. After the initial purchase, you should expect to pay as per your data usage. Students should not expect internet access during orientation or at their housing placements.
Past students have strongly recommended bringing a personal laptop, though the Alliance assumes no responsibility for personal items damaged or stolen while in India. If you are going to bring a laptop, consider purchasing a special insurance policy before you go. See the Travel Insurance section for more information.
All students should bring a USB flash drive with them to use for class presentations, printing assignments and saving work on other computers.
It is important to keep in mind that internet access and land-line phone service may not always be available. Power cuts are a frequent and regular part of life in India, so plan as best you can to allow for more time than you might usually need to accomplish even the most humdrum of tasks online.
Critical skills for success--with all things in India--are patience and an ability to roll with the unexpected. Also, remember that your priority in India is to immerse yourself in your local environment! Too much dependence on communication with home can not only hinder your ability to adapt and integrate, but it can actually exacerbate homesickness and culture shock. Try to set realistic expectations with your family and friends in the U.S. that will allow you to fully focus on this experience and your own personal growth and transformation throughout your semester.
If you need a break from pre-departure logistics, check out these books, films, and other resources about India -- the personal recommendations from Alliance staff and students! These materials introduce many social, historical, and economic aspects about life in India and help prepare you to make the most of your Alliance experience.