I arrived to India on December 27th, 2018, and immediately upon getting off of my plane, I was greeted by a man that asked me if I was Enrique. That was my first interaction with Kalyan, one of the program's staff, and that first time truly foreshadowed just how prepared and supportive the staff was. In the first week or so we were given bikes to get around the huge campus, it was arranged for us to get cell phones from an Indian cellular service, and even the orientation before the semester started was longer and far more immersive than other programs there.
One of the first things we did was go on a scavenger hunt all across Hyderabad, in groups of 3 competing against each other, and that day gave us a giant tour of the city and the knowledge of how to best get around via rickshaw. The teachers were very accommodating and one of the language teachers, Bhavani, would actually invite students over about once a month to learn how to prepare various Indian dishes and snacks.
I did a homestay, instead of staying at the Tagore International House on campus. My host family was very welcoming and it truly felt like I was part of their family. I still stay in touch with one of my host brothers and we hope to visit each other again in both the US and India. My host mother was amazing, and despite the language barrier, she was able to explain to me what certain holidays meant and how to prepare dishes like daal and aloo gobi. I did end up spending a considerable amount of time in Tagore to hang out with other students in the program. The social space set up their was pretty nice; a lot of ping pong games were played there, and a lot of great movies were watched. Mr. Das, the guy in charge of everything involving Tagore and its residents, was a great guy and always helped anyone book a bus, plane, or hostel, when we wanted to travel outside of Hyderabad.
We even had a cultural show at Tagore, which was the result of the program affording students the opportunity to learn how to play instruments like the tabla or the sitar, how to dance various styles of Indian dance, and yoga. We got to showcase what we had learned in our respective extracurriculars towards the end of the program and it was such a fun night that the program planned, and out of the many fond memories I have of my time there, that one is one of the ones that stands out to me.
I loved my study abroad experience and I'm beyond happy that I ended up choosing CIEE Hyderabad because I do believe it was an integral part of just how immersive my experience was. I still keep in regular contact with some staff and teachers and I hope to visit them again on my next trip to India.