Year — Fall 2020
During your time in India you can meet lots of new people, learn new languages, try delicious new foods, and create memories that will last a lifetime. India’s unique culture has been heavily influenced by its rich spiritual and religious traditions, and Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism all originated there. You’ll get a chance to experience the enormous diversity that India has to offer; there are literally hundreds of distinct languages and cultures.
If you’re a vegetarian you’re in luck; vegetarianism is very common in India and you’ll have no problem finding lots of delicious foods to try! Indians typically eat with their right hand and the left hand is usually kept under the table. The principles of Mahatma Gandhi, including humility and nonviolence, are held in high reverence by most Indians. You’ll likely get to experience an Indian wedding – a days-long celebration with hundreds of people, complete with henna tattooes, colorful saris, and lots of dancing!
Your program will begin in either New York City or Washington, DC, where you’ll meet your fellow AFS students from the United States and attend an overnight orientation. You’ll likely have the chance to meet with a student who recently studied abroad there, and will be able to ask any last-minute questions before you depart. Then you’ll be off your arrival city, where you’ll be met by AFS staff and volunteers. Arrival cities could be Ahmedabad, Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi or Pune.
On your way to meet your host family you’ll get a glimpse of the diverse Indian countryside. You might see the massive Ganges River, vast deserts, fertile farmlands, and the majestic Himalaya Mountains in the distance. Personal styles and appearance also vary widely throughout India; you might see women wearing a bindi, or red dot on their foreheads, traditional saree, long fabric robes, or modern pantsuits. Many Indian men wear modern western style clothes. Wherever you go, you’re likely to smells wafts of delicious curry coming from peoples’ homes and local restaurants, and see food carts with fried vegetables and fish lining the streets.
AFSers have lived in communities throughout India, from the lush rainforests of the south to the drier, mountainous regions of the north. Family is a very important part of Indian society and you may find several generations living together in the same home. You might also find that the concept of privacy in India is different from what you’re used to; Indians tend to be very community oriented and enjoy living in groups. While all families are different you should expect that your host family will welcome you with open arms!
As a teenager in India you’ll get the chance to make lots of new friends. Teenagers in India enjoy similar activities to young people everywhere, like watching and playing sports, going out to the movies, watching TV, shopping, going to the beach, or just hanging out with friends. You might also find that Indians like throwing parties and celebrating all kinds of events like having a baby or buying a new car. Their festivals are some of the most exciting in the world - especially that of Holi, which celebrates the triumph of good over evil and is celebrated by people throwing colorful paints and powders at each other in the streets until the whole town is rainbow-colored!
India is a huge country and the local diet really depends on the culture and region. In the north you’ll find that wheat bread is common, while in the south rice is much more prevalent. If you like spicy food then you’re really in for a treat. Many Indian curries are usually prepared very spicy but there are plenty of other options. Coconut is a common ingredient in the south and lentils and other legumes are an important part of Indian cuisine all over the country. Many of India’s religions also have particular dietary restrictions; the Hindus, for example do not eat beef, the Muslims don’t eat pork, and many Indians are vegetarians
Education is taken very seriously in India and attending a local school will be both challenging and rewarding. You’ll probably spend a lot of time studying and you can expect to grow very close to your classmates. You may be enrolled in an Indian “public” school, which is the equivalent of a private school in the United States. Your classes may be taught in English and all students wear uniforms. Based on your interest and academic background you’ll choose a concentration of engineering, medicine, commerce, or art. Schools also offer lots of extracurriculars and you’ll have the opportunity to take art classes, debate, or sports like basketball or cricket.
You’ll also have the option of attending a boarding school for no extra cost. These are some of the best schools in India with state-of-the-art facilities. Your school will likely offer a variety of extracurriculars including yoga, horseback riding, swimming, rock climbing, fencing, and other sports. If you choose to attend a boarding school in India, you’ll live on campus five days per week and then stay with your host family on weekends and during holidays.
"Life-changing" is hard to describe, yet it’s nearly always the first thing that AFSers say when asked about their experience abroad.
"Transformed" is another one. When you return home, if you’re like most AFSers, you’ll bring with you a sense of accomplishment unlike any other. You’ll have gained maturity and independence, discovered new passions, and feel like you can do anything you set your mind to. That transformation isn’t visible only to you, though - others see it as well. AFSers gain critical skills for college and careers, ranging from language fluency to intercultural competence and critical reasoning. "Life-changing" means it’s only the beginning.
Please Note: Travel date ranges are meant to help with general scheduling and are subject to change; please don’t book any travel based on these dates until you’ve received confirmation from AFS. All programs, prices, and travel dates are subject to change without notice.