I'm going to be honest, it was challenging. Not just in adjusting to a new culture and being away from home, but in the daily encounters I experienced. Varanasi is a whirlwind; it hits you right in the face. There are winding alleys and cows, dirt and pollution, traffic and beggars. But there is also the Ganges and the ghats, friendly shopkeepers and delicious lassi, hundreds of temples and beautiful sunrises. I came in with a lot of questions, and left with even more. But that shows me that it was worth it. Studying abroad was a taste of reality, a sliver of the "real world," if you will. I saw poverty and discrimination, but also hope and beauty. And I was in a supportive community that helped me process these difficult realizations. The program staff is incredibly attentive and sacrificing to the students' needs and wishes, but they are also there to talk things through and give insight into a new culture and way of life. Plus, you have your American roommate and your Indian host family. Not to mention that the classes deal with pressing issues that you experience on a daily basis. Gender studies and peace and conflict studies, religion and Hindi. These are relevant courses with an interesting Indian perspective. While it is important to note that the teaching style is rather different, there are plenty of field visits and places to connect what you are learning in the classroom with what you are experiencing in the city. Perhaps one of my favorite parts of my semester was my Culture in Practice class. Students can choose a variety of topics, and I decided on textiles. Three days a week I traveled by bike to my textile teacher's house (about a 25 minute ride away), where we learned about the various Indian textiles and created some of our own. From batik to natural dyes, from block printing to weaving, we were able to tangibly experience an important part of Indian culture and history. Our textiles professor was incredibly hospitably, constantly serving us sweets and teas, and treating us as part of the family. Now, I am hooked on textiles and on India. I realized that India is massive and diverse, that it has beautiful aspects, yet there are dark, rough edges too. Varanasi is crazy and chaotic, but full of life and connection. I couldn't walk down the street without the various shopkeepers greeting me. Sure, there were times I wanted to go home, but now that I am home, I want to go back.