Describe your favorite must-have food that you tried abroad.
Ting: You must try the street food! Warning: strong stomachs and clean hands are a must. Indian food is heavily flavored with spices that are atypical to American cuisine. It is aromatic, flavorful, and delicious. A typical meal consists of a curry and rice or dosa. I highly recommend the aloo curry which is potato based.
If you're feeling adventurous, you can try a meat based curry but it's always safer to go the vegetarian route. The rice or dosa (an Indian bread) is hand mixed with the curry and then popped into the mouth.
Remember to use your right hand when eating and handling money as the left hand is considered "dirty".
Did you run into a language barrier? Did you ever think you knew more/less of the language?
Ting: India is a culturally rich country with many different languages. I learned a few Hindi phrases only to learn that Bangalore's national language is Kannada, a completely different language. It is difficult to pick up because it is entirely different from the English language or any romance languages.
Like most countries outside the US, Indians knew basic English and were very friendly and tried their best to make us feel at ease. The transcendent experience made me realize the commonalities between peoples regardless of language, culture, and background. Locals would give us multiple things to try and when we found one dish we liked, we would gesture for more.
Tell us about any interesting cultural tidbits you noticed about your country.
Ting: India is a conservative country that continues to evolve with the globalization of the economy and introduction to Western ideas. In Bangalore, public dancing is not allowed as it is associated with immoral behavior and acts. Bars close at 11pm and are a constant source of police presence.
There are venues that stay open longer and they are found on the upper floors of seemingly abandoned buildings. The locals were kind enough to show us around and talk their way out of the cover fee that usually goes up for foreigners.
What did your provider do for you and what did you need to do on your own?
Ting: USAC is a great program that details what you need to do. The only thing you need to do yourself is booking the flight and completing the visa application.
Flights to India are quite expensive but there are deals on student universe, a site that caters to students traveling abroad. Flying Qatar is a great choice because they allow two checked luggage versus the typical one, and they provide great on flight service.
As for the visa application, it is a lengthy process but it was made smoother with step by step instructions and tips. Make sure you apply at least one month in advance as unexpected issues may occur. USAC did the rest: securing housing, registering for class, and providing transportation from the airport.