By the time students depart New York City in late August, they will have already met one another at an intensive weekend orientation program conducted on one of the NYSICCSI campuses.
The program begins in New Delhi, India’s capital, for the in-country orientation and introductory academic sessions. Several days are dedicated to organized visits to points of interest in Old Delhi and New Delhi. In Old Delhi students visit the Jama Masjid and the Chandni Chowk, as well as UNESCO World Heritage sites like the Qutb Minar, Humayun’s Tomb, and the Red Fort. In New Delhi time is set aside to explore the National Museum, the Nehru Memorial Museum, and the Indira Gandhi Memorial Museum.
After the orientation in Delhi, the group moves on to Jaipur, capital of the northwestern desert state of Rajasthan. Students have ample opportunity to hone their Hindi skills in this beautiful city, with its centuries-old pink sandstone walls and proud tradition. They live approximately five weeks with families, with whom they take most of their meals and celebrate the major annual festival of Diwali.
Hindi language instruction continues in Jaipur, and courses on Indian culture, history, and contemporary issues are arranged by the faculty and resident directors. The faculty director continues instruction of the director’s course, which incorporates his/her area of expertise. Students make advancements on their semester-long independent fieldwork project, proposed and approved prior to arrival in India.
From Jaipur the group travels to Varanasi (Banaras), one of the most important pilgrimage sites in India, on the bank of the sacred Ganges. During the 8- to 10-day stay, students experience “the eternal city” on foot and from the river, and also from the perspective of a nearby village, from which they gain insight into urban-rural dynamics as well as the dynamics of caste and class. Also included in this segment is a visit to Sarnath.
From Varanasi (Banaras), students travel to Bodh Gaya, where the historical Buddha is believed to have achieved enlightenment; the city is now a major international pilgrimage site. Students study Buddhism and work with NGOS devoted to the betterment of marginalized communities.
The program comes to its conclusion in Delhi, with approximately two weeks for concluding fieldwork, completing course projects, presenting independent fieldwork projects, and reflecting upon the term’s experiences.
Normally, a week of free time is scheduled during or after the Jaipur phase of the program. Students may work on independent fieldwork projects or travel independently (in small groups).