Alumni Spotlight: Sana H. Aaser


Why did you choose this program?

My family is originally from Hyderabad, India, and I was looking for a structured opportunity to go back to my mother country and experience it independently. I was studying cultural anthropology at the time, so I was interested in exploring this city through the lens of the social sciences, while also deepening my understanding and connection to my parents' homeland. This was also one of the few places I could go to study the Urdu language.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

The CIEE program provided several extracurricular classes, seminars and field trips/service learning trips with local organizations. There was also a robust on-boarding and orientation process, which I found very helpful and enjoyable. It was hands-on and well-organized. Following an introductory couple of weeks, it was up to each student to take initiative and get out in the local community and engage. While there were a few group tours of other cities, travel and other outings were usually organized independently by students.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

The time flies by. If you have certain goals for your academic progress and/or career trajectory, plan ahead so that you can get connected with the right people or get involved with the right local organization as soon as you arrive. That said, don't be set on your plan, because things can change and opportunities can arise, so flexibility is definitely important.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

An average day for me started with my commute to the university from my homestay (about an hour on public transportation. which included bus, auto rickshaw and university shuttle).

I would attend two or three classes, with breaks for lunch at the student canteen. I had a rented bicycle that I used on campus. I would often spend time with friends from my classes and from the program. Sometimes there would be additional lectures or social programs in the evenings. I would then commute back to my homestay where I would eat dinner, study and rest. Weekends were open for cultural experiences, shopping and spending time with my host family.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was being taken advantage of (as a tourist and as a young woman) when I was in the city on my own. Luckily for me, I could pass as a local due to my appearance and language skills, and I believe this gave me the confidence I needed to navigate social exchanges, transactions and other such experiences. That said, I do also realize that Hyderabad is a growing, evolving city and, increasingly, a cosmopolitan center. Therefore, I believe it is improving for tourists, and it is generally safe for women as well.

What's your advice to other abroad students?

Making friends is a huge part of the study abroad experience. These friends will be your support, inspiration and companions during this journey; Invest into these relationships. They say that one of the best ways to truly know someone is to travel with them. Explore the country with your friends - these will be the memories you look back on the most.