CET & UW in India: Varanasi

COVID-19 Program Updates

Due to global health & safety concerns and travel restrictions related to the coronavirus, CET Academic Programs has decided to offer flexible booking options for some of their upcoming programs. Learn more about COVID-19 updates to stay tuned regarding program information.

Video and Photos

About

Seeking a study abroad destination that is intense, exhilarating, and complex? The UW in India program, based in Varanasi, takes you into weavers’ workshops and musicians’ homes. The directed field study provides the chance to develop a research proposal, carry out an in-depth investigation into a topic of your choice, and complete a 20-page final paper. The tutorial is a way to learn a new skill, like sitar-playing or Mehendi, or to give back to the community through an internship at a local organization. Language options include Hindi of all levels, and Urdu for advanced learners. You'll live in a guesthouse, with a local roommate, or with a host family. The program includes an orientation in Delhi and a four-day Traveling Seminar. No prior language instruction is required. CET partners with University of Wisconsin-Madison to operate this program. Students from all schools are welcome to apply.

Highlights
  • Conduct research and produce a paper—perfect for a grad school application or résumé
  • Extensive, long-standing network in Varanasi
  • Traveling Seminar that explores other parts of India
  • Courses taught in English + Hindi language classes
  • Hands-on learning with tutorials (e.g. Mehendi, Sitar, Kathak dance, etc.)

Questions & Answers

Reviews

8.5 Rating
based on 6 reviews
  • Academics 6.8
  • Support 7.7
  • Fun 8.7
  • Housing 8.3
  • Safety 8.3
Showing 1 - 6 of 6
Default avatar
Chad
4/10
No, I don't recommend this program

Varanasi, India

During my time in Varanasi, I became fully engaged in the culture of Varanasi. I lived with a local roommate in a flat and was able to explore the city with him. I learned how to bargain for fruits and vegetables from local sellers and how to then prepare and cook them into a meal. We also made many trips to the Ganga where we saw and took part in many of the traditions that the locals practiced. The program itself was quite engaging and encouraged involvement and exploring in the community. As a group, we visited many temples and met with local experts to learn more about the history of this important religious city. There was always something to learn and keep you busy!

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
Most of the temples were amazing and incredible to enter and visit.
Default avatar
Samantha
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A life changing experience

Everyone says that when they study abroad that it is a life changing experience, but this cannot be more true about this program because of the city that it is placed in. There you are encompassed by the place that is full of people, animals, trash, religious strength. It is truly an amazing place, but it is not for the light hearted. still had a great experience in the city and with the great friends I met within the program and around the city. You will get sick a lot we did aproximetly every week, and you will get overwhelmed. Many people won’t quite be able to take the intensity of living in the city and completely changing how you normally live. The classes all go at a fast speed and are not quite we’ll organized yet curriculum wise. And the staff feel a little cold when regarding how they relate to the students. Regardless I still had a great experience in the city and with the great friends I met within the program and around the city.

What would you improve about this program?
I would improve the curriculum of the classes giving clarity about what is expected of students. I would get staff who support the students, answer questions when asked instead of giving indirect half answers, I would have staff help students when they are sick and do everything they could to help students feel comfortable. This is where the program lacked.
Default avatar
Karissa
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A Challenge-But a Worthwhile One for Sure

Studying abroad in India truly is an experience like no other. It is complicated country, and is both one of the most difficult and challenging experiences I have had, as well as one of the most wonderful. In the end, if you want a program that will change who you are, this is it. One of the shining aspects of this program is the staff; they are absolutely wonderful and they are the reason that I enjoyed this program so much. They work hard everyday to try to give the students the best possible experience, and the traveling seminar was wonderful. Living with host families is a fantastic opportunity that will help you forge long-lasting bonds with a part of the community there. In the end, though, this is not an easy study abroad program full of just fun and relaxation; it requires a lot of work both academically and emotionally. But if you are looking for a program that will shape and change you in ways that you probably never imagined, you have found it.

What would you improve about this program?
There were a lot of academic requirements, including a high volume of reading, which left little time for exploration and relaxation. Some of the courses seemed to use materials that were a bit outdated. I would recommend allowing for more long weekends, so that students have the opportunity to explore India more rather than having to put so much time and energy into academics.
Default avatar
Dallon
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Spring semester in Varanasi

Living in Varanasi for four months was an incredible experience and sharing a room with a local college student made it all the more impactful. The local contacts and resources from CET were huge - between the program director and the friendly staff, I could be put in touch with almost anyone in Varanasi to explore my evolving interests. My favorite course was Urban Geography, we learned in depth about the history of this ancient city and then had weekly walking tours of different sections of the city. The experience I gained working on my research project was invaluable and I've continued to be in touch with the contacts I made while there. This was an awesome opportunity for both academic exploration and living in a distinctly different culture.

What would you improve about this program?
I wish our 'spring break' had been timed better to include a weekend. I remember it was in the middle of a week. I think that if it had included some days of the weekend, I would have had more time to explore another part of India.
Default avatar
Raina
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Best decision of my life

This was an amazing program and I absolutely recommend it to anyone considering going to India. The staff, as are the host families associated with the program, are a great support system and are so friendly, welcoming and ready to help you. You have a lot of freedom in choosing your tutorial and research project which I appreciated and was a deciding factor for me in choosing this program. If you are looking for a place that will question your beliefs and how you approach life, come to Varanasi. Unlike other cities you could travel to, there is nonexistent nightlife (e.g. drinking and bars), unreliable wifi, and quite a bit of pollution, but I believe the benefits of Varanasi and its culture out weigh all these factors. I will never forget my time here with my host family, eating street food, going to weddings and concerts, traveling by train in India, interacting with locals, taking part in religious festivals and overcoming my fears of the unknown.

What would you improve about this program?
I wish that we had more interaction with local students in Varanasi. It would have been nice if the program had an option to take one of our classes at Banaras Hindu University and we would be able to experience what college is like in India rather than taking classes just with the other American students in the Program House.
Default avatar
Katie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Student Review

Coming home after studying abroad in Varanasi, the question that everyone seemed to always ask me was "what was the craziest thing that happened?!" I still never really have a straight answer for this question. Sure, there was some pretty 'crazy' things that happened over my four months in India. However, the reason why I always have such a hard time answering this question is because all of these things, everything that might seem 'crazy' to someone that hasn't experienced it, eventually just became so normal to me. Things like traffic jams of cows, families of monkeys living along side me in my neighborhood, goats wearing sweaters as family pets, a family of four and their pet dog riding on a motorbike, people defying the laws of how many is too many to squeeze into a rickshaw, and so many other things. There could be so many different ways to answer this question, but any answer that I give just never really seems right. I think that this is what studying abroad in a place like India is suppose to do to you. Things that you never thought you would encounter in your lifetime, soon just become part of everyday life. Just having one semester in Varanasi was not nearly enough for me to become fully assimilated to the culture. However, it was enough time to find the normality in everyday life; and that in itself is the greatest thing that study abroad could have given me.

What would you improve about this program?
The one thing I felt could have be improved was the semester schedule. We had a midterm break, which was great to have the opportunity to travel to different parts of India. However, it wasn't exactly in the middle of the semester. When we returned from the midterm break, we only had about one month left in Varanasi. The last month seemed to just fly by so quickly that I wish we would have had our midterm break a bit sooner in the semester. Other than that though, it was an overall amazing program!