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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.
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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.
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.
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.
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)
Dr. Ravi S. Singh, SOCI 360: Varanasi: City of Confluence
Dr. N. Sharada Iyer, GEND 320: Women, Development, and Environment
Dr. Manoj Mishra, PEAC 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.
A study abroad experience is first and foremost an academic experience, and the Alliance for Global Education takes the process of credit and grade conversion seriously.
The Alliance provides information on credit transfer and conversion at the time that a student chooses courses. Credit appears on transcripts issued by Arcadia University at the completion of a student's term of study abroad. Credit is issued in U.S. semester hours, ensuring that students continue to make progress toward their degrees and verifying the full-time academic load a student carries while abroad.
All Alliance courses have been reviewed and approved by Arcadia University’s Undergraduate Academic Programs Committee. Arcadia University is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. Any grades that appear on an Arcadia transcript must meet Middle States' standards.
Students receive a letter grade on a scale from A to F for every course they take while enrolled on an Alliance program. Although policies at students' individual home institutions may differ, the Alliance does not permit students to take courses on a credit/no credit basis. Student grades are determined by criteria set forth in course syllabi. As noted above, all Alliance courses are reviewed and approved by Arcadia University’s Undergraduate Academic Programs Committee. Arcadia University is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
At the conclusion of a program, the College of Global Studies at Arcadia University sends an official Arcadia University transcript to a participant's home school and an unofficial copy to the participant.
Because universities abroad have different administrative structures, 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:
If you have a question about the process, please feel free to contact your program manager responsible.
Please note: Transcripts are not released for students with an outstanding balance due to program fees. Students enrolling in consecutive terms with the Alliance do not receive their first term transcript until their second term fees are paid in full.
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:
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).
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.
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.
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.
Program dates roughly follow the U.S. academic calendar.
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.
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)
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)
|Spring 2014 Program||$ 15,980|
|Fall 2014 Program||$ 16,780|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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...read more
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
Read what these students have to say about study abroad with the Alliance in Asia!
Visit the Accepted Students section