Study Abroad in Mumbai, India

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Mumbai is India’s most eclectic and cosmopolitan city. With its beaches, buzzing cultural scene, and as the center of the Bollywood industry, Mumbai is often portrayed as one of India’s most fun cities. Yet, why not combine both work and play? With its unique cultures and beautiful scenery, Mumbai has been gaining popularity as a study abroad destination as students search for authentic experiences that are unavailable back home.

Photo credit: Francisco Antunes.

Does studying abroad sound fabulous but expensive? While it is true, studying abroad can mean added costs, there are still a variety of ways to offset the extra expenses. If you're not up for opening a lemonade stand, I suggest checking out the following scholarships.

The currency used in Mumbai is the rupee, and Visa and Master cards are widely accepted in the city shops. Many shopping establishments also accept American Express, Diners and a host of other cards. However, smaller shops or family-run businesses may not accept these cards, so be sure to keep some cash on you.

Because Mumbai is a major city in India, it is relatively more expensive to live in Mumbai as compared to the rest of India. However, cost of living in Mumbai is still low by Western standards. For example, it is 67% cheaper than in New York City and 41% cheaper than Austin, Texas. An inexpensive restaurant meal will cost 200 rupees and a monthly transportation pass costs only 500 rupees. Naturally, the cheapest (and arguably, the best) way to live is like the locals – buy food from local produce markets and food stands, don’t splurge money on excessive home and “Americanized” luxuries, and you will be able to have a cheap and authentic study abroad experience!

Because studying abroad can be expensive, you may want to consider applying for a scholarship to offset your costs. General scholarship and financial aid providers include the Fulbright scholarships, and Gilman scholarships. Additionally, remember to check with your university to see if they provide any scholarships for exchange or international students! This way, you can have a peace of mind while enjoying the perks of studying abroad.

While Mumbai has fewer historical attractions than other cities in India, this vibrant city compensates for this by offering a wider range of unique and different attractions. Mumbai is the center of India’s booming “Bollywood” film industry, so you should definitely pay a visit to the resplendent Eros Cinema as well as Film City, where you can go on a tour and visit production sets.

Another great way to get a glimpse into the inner workings of the city is to visit Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat, a massive open air laundry in central Mumbai. Dirty laundry from all over Mumbai is brought here and painstakingly washed by thousands of dhobis (washermen)in seemingly endless rows of concrete troughs – a difficult profession handed fom generation to generation. Finally, markets and bazaars are integral to Mumbai’s colorful culture. From the multitude of colorful pavement vendors that line Colaba Causeway, to the fascinating Chor Bazaar Thieves Market, Mumbai is full of interesting places to go street shopping and eating. Also keep a lookout for the dabbawalas - a term given to the thousands of men responsible for transporting and delivering around 200,000 lunch bozes of freshly cooked foot to the city’s office workers everyday - while you explore the city!

For art and history buffs, Kala Ghoda is Mumbai’s culture center and is home to Mumbai’s best galleries and museums. In particular, the Jehangir Art Gallery is famous, and if you’re in Mumbai in February, you may be able to catch the nine-day Kala Ghoda Arts Festival as well! Mumbai is also full of heritage buildings such as the Bombay High Court, Prince of Wales Museum, and even the historic 18th century homes in Khotachiwadi village.

Mooching is common among Mumbai youths, and there are many popular hangout places in Mumbai, ranging from lavish parlors to sandy beaches. Bombay is the best area to find all kinds of hangouts for everyone. Additionally, some of the popular student areas are the nightlife areas in Mumbai - Bandra, south Mumbai and Goa are renowned for a plethora of bars and clubs. Janata Lunch Home in Bandra is a cheap and cheery late-night venue that is popular with students. Here, you can share a quarter-bottle of rum and half a tandoori chicken for under a fiver, perfect for a lazy weekend night! Café Mondegar is also one of South Bombay’s popular hangouts, especially for the college student.

Studying abroad may sound easy and worry-free, but the reality is that being left alone in a completely unfamiliar environment can be rather unsettling and stressful at times (especially at the beginning!). As such, it is important for you to select a study abroad program that offers a great deal of support to its students. There are many support systems available in Mumbai. For major emergencies and more serious problems, you can approach the US Consulate General in Mumbai for help, or reach out to expat communities in Mumbai (a quick Google search will give a list of online expat communities). For other things, remember that your third-party program provider as well as University has a strong support system and many resources for its students! API, for example, includes advising as part of their study abroad program package.

Be prepared for a culture shock upon arrival, as you will likely find India’s customs to be new, confusing and even bewildering. The level of filth and noise in Mumbai (and India, in general) is much, much higher than in the United States. Indian food is also commonly eaten with one’s fingers, and you should dress conservatively and modestly. Before you shake the hand of someone of the opposite gender, or think of using your left hand to eat, stop! Take a look around you to see if anybody is doing that. Regardless of your destination country, it is critical that you not offend the locals by resorting to certain behaviors you wouldn’t think twice about back home! Learn to observe others for the culture’s dos-and-don’ts, do a little background research before traveling, and keep a lookout for affronted glares from locals!

To be safe, touts, scams and theft are common in Mumbai and you should assume that anyone ‘proactively’ trying to help you has a hidden agenda to part you from your money. Foreigners sometime face discriminatory pricing as well, and you may be charged a higher price at tourist attractions and some shops. Foreigners also attract the attention of beggars. In terms of transportation, taking taxis and autorickshaws is discouraged as well because you will most likely get ripped off as a foreigner. The best way to combat these problems is to wear local clothes, and also befriend some local classmates. Exploring Mumbai with a local will definitely help in showing you the best way to handle different situations and navigate your way through the city.

In terms of food, Mumbai street food highlights the sheer diversity and beauty of the cuisine in Mumbai. Regardless of whether you are on a budget or not, you should definitely check out the street food stalls in Mumbai. Some good ones that you may interested in are: Chat on Chowpatti beach, Muslim biryanis in Mahim from Lucky restaurant, Lassi on Ranade Road, and Khao Gully in Colaba for Maharashtran food.

Finally, when in Mumbai, it would be a pity if you were to just stay in the main city! Be sure to venture out to explore Elephanta Island and the Kanheri Caves, both of which lie outside the city. If you have time, be sure to travel to other cities in India as well!

Contributed by Liying Tan

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