Varanasi
India
  • About this Program
    • Program Overview
    • On Location in Varanasi
  • Academics
    • Semester Curriculum
    • Faculty
    • Credits, Grades, and Transcripts
  • Culture in Practice
    • Overview
  • Calendar and Fees
    • Academic Calendar
    • Program Fees
  • Daily Life
    • Housing and Meals
  • Activities and Excursions
    • Off-Site Orientation
    • Local Activities
    • Field Visits
  • Student Perspectives
    • Contact a Program Graduate
    • Read Student Blogs
  • Already Accepted?
    • Already Accepted?
  • Photos

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The City, the River, the Sacred

Program Overview

The Varanasi program allows students to examine the intersections between religious life, urban studies, and the environment in contemporary India. Though it is a challenging destination for U.S. undergraduates, Varanasi is a city that has stimulated scholarship on South Asia for hundreds of years. It offers boundless, rich opportunities for research, academic study, intercultural experience, and personal reflection. The program provides a structured, balanced blend of classroom and field-based learning, including a required language course and an individualized ‘culture in practice’ component.

Meet our on-site staff members!

Pre-Requisites and Academics

To be eligible for this program, students must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 and be enrolled in an undergraduate degree program at an accredited U.S. institution.  No previous academic or language coursework is required.

 

On Location in Varanasi

In Hindu mythology, the city is known as Kashi, a center for Hindu enlightenment, yoga, and learning, as well as the ideal final resting place for the devout Hindu. While the English name of Banaras still lingers, in Hindi and Urdu today it is Varanasi, a bustling city situated on the banks of India’s sacred river, the Ganges. Arguably the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, Varanasi is a dense, diverse urban center in a close symbiotic relationship with a river that can be simultaneously understood as pure and polluted.

Check out this interactive map of the Alliance's resources across Varanasi:


View Alliance On Location: Varanasi in a larger map.

Among the holiest of places for Hindus, it is also home to a vibrant Muslim population and is located only a few miles away from Sarnath where the Buddha preached his first sermon. Locally-produced silk saris are sought after across India for traditional weddings, while musicians continue to teach classical Indian gharana in the city of its origin. A window into the ancient, spiritual, and cultural past of India, Varanasi is an example of the ways in which the ancient and modern coexist.

The Varanasi program is based near Banaras Hindu University (BHU), one of India’s top research institutions. Founded in 1916, BHU has nearly 20,000 students, including 2,500 research scholars and 650 foreign students from across Asia and around the world. Many of the Alliance faculty members hold appointments within BHU’s various faculties and institutes.

Semester Curriculum

The semester curriculum consists of three required courses:

  1. Core Course: Varanasi: City of Confluence
  2. Hindi or Urdu Language
  3. 'Culture in Practice' field component

In addition, students choose two electives for a total of 15 semester credits. All courses involve a minimum of 44 contact hours.

SOCI 360: Varanasi: City of Confluence (required - 3 credits)

An interdisciplinary core course that explores the complex intersections of the city, the river, and the sacred that both define Varanasi and place it in the greater context of national and global environmental, urban, and religious currents. Various local field visits are also incorporated into this course.

HIND 100: Beginning Hindi (required - 3 credits)

Fundamentals of conversation and written Hindi for beginning students. Intermediate and advanced levels will be taught through individual tutorials.

HIND 200: Intermediate Hindi (required - 3 credits)

Fundamentals of conversation and written Hindi for intermediate students.

URDU 100: Beginning Urdu (required - 3 credits)

Fundamentals of conversation and written Urdu for beginning students. Intermediate and advanced levels will be taught through individual tutorials.

CLTR 280: Culture in Practice (required - 3 credits)
Music & DanceYoga & Yoga Theory / Artisanal Apprenticeship

This field-based component provides the rare opportunity for students to go into the local community and study under master teachers (or gurus). Students will choose from three options - music and dance, yoga and yoga philosophy, or artisanal apprenticeships - and spend the semester examining the history and theories behind them as well as learning the skill or trade first-hand. More information about this component is currently available on our Culture in Practice page.

GEND 320: Women, Development, and Environment (elective - 3 credits)

RELG 350: Living Religious Traditions in India (elective - 3 credits)

PEAC 380: Peace and Conflict Studies: The Indian Experience (elective - 3 credits)

Faculty

 

VISITING FACULTY

Dr. Ravi S. SinghSOCI 360: Varanasi: City of Confluence

Dr. N. Sharada Iyer, GEND 320: Women, Development, and Environment

Dr. D. K. OjhaRELG 350: Living Religious Traditions in India

Dr. Manoj MishraPEAC 380: Peace and Conflict Studies: The Indian Experience 

Prof. Binit Mishra, HIND 100: Beginning Hindi

Dr. Salman Raghib, URDU 100: Beginning Urdu

Throughout the semester guest lectures will be provided by UNESCO Chairholder, Professor, and Coordinatior of Banaras Hindu Unversity's Malaviya Centre for Peace Research (MCPR), Dr. Priyankar Upadhyaya, Director of Banaras Hindu University's Center for the Study of Nepal, Dr. Anjoo Sharan Upadhyaya

Credits, Grades, and Transcripts

Credits, Grades, and Transcripts

A study abroad experience is first and foremost an academic experience. All Alliance for Global Education courses have undergone a faculty review and approval process, and are transcripted by an accredited U.S. university. For all Alliance programs through Spring 2014, transcripts are issued by Arcadia University. For Summer 2014 programs and beyond, transcripts are issued by Butler University.   

While in most cases students who have received approval from their home institution to study on an Alliance program can be assured of credits transferring, it is a student’s responsibility to work with their study abroad or academic advisor and home school faculty or academic departments to ensure credit transfer for specific courses.  

Credits and Accreditation

Credits granted for Alliance courses are identified in course listings on the Curriculum page for each program, and appear on the official transcript issued at the completion of a student's term. Credit is issued in U.S. semester hours, ensuring that students continue to make progress toward their degrees and verifying the full-time course load they completed while abroad.

All Alliance courses have been reviewed and approved by Butler or Arcadia University’s Undergraduate Academic Programs Committee. Arcadia University is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. Butler University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Programs approved by the Butler University College of Business—which include the Alliance’s International Business Program in Shanghai—are accredited by AACSB International, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

Grades

Students receive a letter grade on a scale from A to F for every course they take while enrolled on an Alliance program. Withdrawals (W) may be granted due to exceptional circumstances. Although policies at students' home institutions may differ, the Alliance does not permit students to take courses on a credit/no credit or pass/fail basis. Student grades are determined by criteria set forth in course syllabi.  

The grading scale used in determining letter grades for Alliance courses is as follows:

Transcripts

At the conclusion of a program, an official transcript is sent to the participant's home school, with an unofficial copy forwarded to the participant. 

Because timelines for final evaluation may vary due to respective program calendars or administrative structures of partner universities abroad, transcripts may take longer to issue than they do at U.S. institutions. While the timeline varies by program, a general timeline for issuing transcripts is:

·        Fall programs - transcript issued in late February

·        Spring and Summer programs - transcript issued in late September

Transcripts are not released for students with an outstanding balance of program fees or other charge incurred while on the program. Students enrolling in consecutive terms with the Alliance do not receive their first term transcript until their second term fees are paid in full.

Participants in Alliance programs through Spring 2014 can request additional copies of transcripts online or in writing at any time from the Arcadia University Registrar's Office.

Participants in Alliance programs beginning Summer 2014 can request additional transcripts of their transcripts online at any time from Butler University's online transcript ordering service provided by the National Student Clearinghouse, a nonprofit organization serving the higher education community. 

If you have a question about the transcripting process or timeline, please feel free to contact your Student Services Manager.

Overview

The Culture in Practice component provides students with the rare opportunity to study under master teachers in the local community. Students must select one option out of the three listed below:

  1. Music and Dance
  2. Yoga and Yoga Theory
  3. Artisanal Apprenticeship

Regardless of their component choice, students will spend a third of their time in a classroom setting with their peers. Weekly lectures will provide the academic framework in which students learn about the theory and history of their Culture in Practice choice.  The remaining two-thirds of the class will be spent ‘in practice’, focusing on a specific aspect of the category chosen. Here, students will study their respective art or discipline first-hand through one-on-one or small group lessons with their teachers (gurus). Regular assessments will be jointly conducted by the professor and the teacher throughout the semester. One, out of the three Culture in Practice components offered, is required (3 credits).

Music and Dance

CLTR 280: Music and Dance

Varanasi boasts a longstanding tradition of music that is still vibrant in the city today. Despite the widespread popularity of Bollywood, Indian classical music has continued to play a prominent role in the socio-cultural life of the city. The active performing arts community in Varanasi has a strong legacy in classical Indian music, and was home to legendary figures like Pandit Shanto Prasad (tabla) and Pandit Ravi Shankar (sitar).

Music students will be introduced to North Indian classical music and dance through the Indian method of learning. One-on-one practice with gurus will allow students to develop their personal skill. Lectures for music and dance students are led by scholars of Indian performing arts, providing a historical and theoretical foundation for the student’s experience. Students may choose from instruments such as tabla or sitar, Khyal classical singing, or Kathak dance.

Yoga and Yoga Theory

CLTR 280: Yoga and Yoga Theory

The Hindu spiritual destination, Varanasi is home to hundreds of shrines and temples and remains the center for Hindu enlightenment, yoga, and learning. An integral part of Hinduism, yoga has been practiced in India for centuries as a way of freeing the mind, body, and spirit. For these reasons Varanasi provides yoga students with a wealth of context and opportunities for profound experiential learning. Students will have classroom lectures with their Yoga professor two times per week to study both the religious and theoretical foundations of Yoga. Students will then meet Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings with their teacher to practice Yoga.

Artisanal Apprenticeship

CLTR 280: Artisanal Apprenticeship

Varanasi, long known as a center for silk, has attracted many of the world’s finest luxury brands to its doorstep. The artisanal apprenticeship provides an opportunity to study local crafts and trades of significant importance to the local economy in Varanasi. During weekly courses students learn about the history and importance of trades, such as silk weaving and ceramics, and venture into the artisan communities throughout the city accompanied by a professor. In private classes with teachers, students enjoy hands on learning using looms and pottery wheels to better understand the level of skill and artistry in existence in Varanasi today.

*A limited number of internship placements and directed research opportunities may be available for select students.  Please contact the India Program Manager for more information.

Academic Calendar

Program dates roughly follow the U.S. academic calendar.

  • Fall semester begins in mid-August and concludes in mid-December
  • Spring semester begins in mid-January and concludes in mid-May
  • No summer session is offered in Varanasi

Semester Structure

The 16–17 week semester begins with an off-site orientation. Students are acclimated to their new environment through introductory sessions on Indian culture and program policies, training on health and safety, and excursions into the surrounding area. Upon arrival in Varanasi, students are given more in-depth orientation to their new home and hosts before beginning their coursework. Excursions during the semester may include field visits to locations such as Kolkata (Calcutta), Lucknow, Agra, and various hill stations in the Himalayas. 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.

2014 Spring Semester Calendar

12 January 2014          Flight departure from U.S.
13 January 2014          Arrival in Delhi
14 January 2014          Orientation begins
17 January 2014          Group flight to Varanasi - Orientation continues
02 May 2014                Closing Ceremony
03 May 2014                Return flight to Delhi and U.S. (after 5:oo pm)

2014 Fall Semester Calendar

24 August 2014           Flight departure from U.S.
25 August 2014           Arrival in Delhi
26 August 2014           Orientation begins
29 August 2014           Group flight to Varanasi - Orientation continues
11 December 2014      Closing Ceremony
12 December 2014      Return flight to Delhi and U.S. (after 5:oo pm)

Program Fees

Spring 2014 Program   $ 15,980
Fall 2014 Program  $ 16,780

What’s Included

The program price includes tuition and fees, housing, most meals, pre-departure materials, student visa authorizations, orientation, organized activities, field study trips, course materials, the services of a full-time staff, and medical/evacuation insurance.

The program price does not include airfare to India, passport and consular visa fees, independent travel, and other items not mentioned as included.

Our breakdown of fall 2014 program fees, and spring 2014 program fees includes an itemized list of additional expenses that students will encounter while abroad.

Housing and Meals

The Varanasi program emphasizes cultural immersion, experiential learning opportunities, and extensive interaction with local residents in the host context. All housing arrangements are associated with an Indian host, and students should be prepared to share a room with another Alliance student. Students will take most meals in their homes and at the program center, though there may be days when students will be required to eat out on their own.

Off-Site Orientation

In addition to sessions on health and safety, academics, and cultural adjustment conducted at the start of the program, students will be exposed to the modernity of Delhi, India's burgeoning capital city. While in Delhi, students will visit some of the city's most famous landmarks, such as the Red Fort and Jama Masjid in Old Delhi, and Humayun's Tomb and Qutab Minar in New Delhi.  Students will experience the unique collision of the ancient, the colonial, and the modern, in a city that continues to redefine itself as a significant global player and one that will present a stark contrast to the traditional setting of Varanasi, where orientation concludes.

Local Activities

​The program calendar is filled with numerous activities in and around Varanasi.  Activities vary according to the season, religious and secular holidays, and cultural and academic events in the area. A list of possible activities is included below.  Please keep in mind that all activities are subject to change.

Activities In Varanasi May Include: 

  • Visit to Hindu temples such as Kal Bhairav (terrific manifestation of Shiva and protector of Varanasi), New Vishvanath temple, Durga temple, Nepali temple (reproduction of Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu), and Baba Kinaram Ashram
  • Boat rides along the Ganges at sunrise or in the evening to watch Ganga Aarti (worship of Gange river) at the Dasashvamedh ghat and during Dev Diwali (a famous festival during which all of the ghats are decorated with lights)
  • Visit to Bharat Mata temple inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi in 1936, where a huge map carved in marble depicts an undivided India (Indian subcontinent and Tibetan plateau). The map is said to be perfectly to scale both vertically and horizontally with mountains, rivers and the holy tirthas (pilgrimage centres) all clearly visible
  • Visit to Krishnamurti Foundation at Rajghat
  • Visit to the Alamgir mosque at Panchganga Ghat

​Activities Around Varanasi May Include:

  • Ramnagar: visit the Ramnagar Fort and enjoy Ramlila (an enactment of Ramayana) during Navaratri festival (October-November)
  • Sarnath: visit Sarnath's deer park, the location of Buddha’s first sermon and the site of Tibetan University
  • Visit villages on the outskirts of Varanasi
  • Visit waterfalls in Mirzapur and Chandouli districts
  • *Please keep in mind that all activities are subject to change.

Field Visits

Kolkata, Darjeeling and the Himalayas

Located on the banks of the river Hooghly and the base of the Ganges River, Kolkata is a city of paradoxes. The former colonial capital of the British Empire is home to architecture that reflects the colonial legacy and modern Indian sensibility. This East Indian megacity pulses and vibrates with optimism, politics, industriousness, innovation, music, and culture. Apart from opportunities to wander through Kolkata's many Indian food and flower markets, students may visit landmarks of the British legacy, such as the Victoria Memorial and the Princep Ghat, and meet with intellectuals at the historic Coffee House near Presidency University.

From Kolkata, students will continue their travels through West Bengal into the eastern Himalayan foothills. Draped by steep mountains, temples, and tea plantations, they’ll enjoy breathtaking views of Kanchanjunga and Mount Everest from Tiger Hill, and stroll through Darjeeling’s narrow streets replete with Tibetan shops and stalls.  Possible highlights include visits to the Ghum Monastery, Bhutia Busty Gompa, local tea plantations, and a ride on the famous Darjeeling Himalayan Railway.

Contact a Program Graduate

How do Alliance program graduates look back on their experience studying in Asia?  What advice can they offer on making the most of your time abroad?  Contact these students to ask your questions!

To view graduates from other Alliance programs, click here.  Interact with graduates via our Facebook and YouTube pages, too!

Hannah Bahnmiller

Contemporary India
The City, the River, the Sacred
University of North Dakota Grand Forks – Anthropology Major

Hi everyone, my name is Hannah and I'm a student at the University of North Dakota. I studied abroad Fall 2012 in...

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Hi everyone, my name is Hannah and I'm a student at the University of North Dakota. I studied abroad Fall 2012 in Varanasi, India and Spring 2013 in Pune, India. My experience in India was life changing. I love Indian culture and love to try my hand at cooking Indian food. I'm really excited to be an Alliance ambassador at UND because often times, people view study abroad as a chance to go to Europe and party, but going outside of your comfort zone to somewhere new and unknown can be the most life changing experience! hide

Elise Ahrens

The City, the River, the Sacred
Emerson College – Film Production Major

Hello all! My name's Elise and I'm a sophomore at Emerson College in Boston. I'm a film production major hoping to specialize in the direction of documentary. I studied with the Alliance program last fall in Varanasi. Right now I'm...

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Hello all! My name's Elise and I'm a sophomore at Emerson College in Boston. I'm a film production major hoping to specialize in the direction of documentary. I studied with the Alliance program last fall in Varanasi. Right now I'm editing four month of footage from my time abroad, annoying my roommates with loads of Bollywood music, and scheming other opportunites to get back to the subcontinent. It was a life changing experience, I'm looking forward to being a part of the process for new students in the future. hide

Kyle Trembley

The City, the River, the Sacred
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign – Religious Studies Major

Hey all my name is Kyle Trembley, and I am a senior at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. I am a Religious...

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Hey all my name is Kyle Trembley, and I am a senior at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. I am a Religious Studies major with a primary concentration in Hinduism and Islam, and I also teach yoga both at the university rec and a local yoga studio. I studied abroad in Spring 2013 in Varanasi, India for the whole semester. It was one of the most profound and inspiring periods of my life. I greatly improved my grasp on the Hindi language, as well as seen first-hand many of the religious practices I study. I love sharing my experiences abroad with anyone who is interested, and have had an amazing time incorporated many of the yoga practices I learned in India into my yoga classes here. I am very excited to continue to spread my wanderlust! hide

Carly Wynn

The City, the River, the Sacred
Transylvania University – Religion Major

Hello! My name is Carly. I just got back a month ago from studying in Varanasi, India for nearly four months. I am...

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Hello! My name is Carly. I just got back a month ago from studying in Varanasi, India for nearly four months. I am finishing up my junior year at Transylvania University in Lexington, KY. I am pursuing a degree in Religion, with minors in Women's Studies and Anthropology. My time in Varanasi was easily the best four months of my life. It was an incredible learning and growing experience. It was my first time really out of the country (except for Canada) and it changed my perspective on many things in life. It also reaffirmed my immense desire to travel, especially in Asia, but all over the world in general. I hope to return to India sometime soon, and have already begun applying to a few summer programs, but until I have the opportunity to return, I look forward to talking to people as much and as often as possible about my experiences. The most stunning part of my trip to India was definitely our trip up to the hill villages of Kurseong and Darjeeling. Himalaya is the most beautiful place I have ever seen, with some of the friendliest people I've met, and I'm really dying to see more of it. hide

Read Student Blogs

Read what these students have to say about study abroad with the Alliance in Asia!

 

Katie Houser

The City, the River, the Sacred
College of William and Mary – South Asian Studies & Religious Studies

Allie Barteldt

The City, the River, the Sacred
Elon University – Human Services & Religious Studies

Elise Ahrens

The City, the River, the Sacred
Emerson College – Film Production Major

Stefan Henick-Kling

The City, the River, the Sacred
Washington State University – Philosophy Major

Lucy McGrath

The City, the River, the Sacred
Arcadia University – Acting Major

Sarah Berman

The City, the River, the Sacred
Macalester College – Linguistics Major

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