Although I have loved all four years of my university education in the UK, part of me has always been curious about studying abroad. When I received an email in February about an opportunity to participate in a two-week International Study Centre (ISC) to India, I jumped at the opportunity to apply.
ISCs are open to everyone at the University of York (undergraduates, post-graduates, mature students, etc.). They are a great way to experience another culture without committing to an entire year abroad. The two weeks that I spent in India were a true highlight of my educational journey. I want to share my experience in the hope that others might be inspired to apply in the future.
Choosing the right ISC and applying
Having completed my undergraduate degree elsewhere, I was unaware of the vast array of opportunities offered by the Centre for Global Programmes at the University of York. When the email about ISCs dropped into my inbox, I was extremely curious and paused my essay writing mid-sentence to learn more. The university offers different opportunities every year. The ISC locations advertised in 2022 were India, Cape Town, Dublin and Washington DC. For me, the choice was easy, as I have always been desperate to visit India. Seeing the Taj Mahal has been at the top of my bucket list since I was a little girl. If you’re torn between two or more locations, you can helpfully look at the cost and length of the programmes and provisional itineraries to help you decide.
As I was set on India, I swiftly started the application process. This involved completing a form about my motivations for studying abroad and recording a short video about the potential challenges of travelling in a group. Roughly three weeks later, I received the email that I had been waiting for: I had been accepted and would be travelling to India in August 2022!
Getting ready to go
After accepting my place, it was time to start preparing myself for the trip. The university organises two pre-departure workshops, which are compulsory for all participating students. I was really nervous about attending these workshops; they were my first encounters with the students I would be travelling with. As a post-graduate, I was concerned that everyone would be much younger than me and that I wouldn’t make friends. However, my anxieties were unfounded, and the reality couldn’t have been more different. Everyone was so lovely, including the staff members leading the sessions, and it was clear that we were united by our excitement about the trip. I even found a roommate, which made me feel so much more at ease!
In the months leading up to our departure, I had to organise lots of practical details, such as visas and vaccines. I also had to prepare myself mentally for the trip and studying abroad. India is a long way from home and the culture is so different to our own. I personally found that reading about Indian culture and focussing on my own motivations for studying there helped me to remain positive and excited.
After months of planning, we finally departed for India on Sunday 21 August 2022. There were 14 of us in total, plus two lovely staff members from the University of York. Only two members of the group had visited the country before, so we spent the 10-hour flight getting to know each other. We also shared our hopes and ideas about what we might experience while studying abroad.
Stop one: Bengaluru (Bangalore)
The first stop on our trip was the beautiful city of Bengaluru, located in the southern state of Karnataka. We were greeted at the airport by an air-conditioned bus and our Indian guides, Deep and Fahran, who we would get to know extremely well throughout the course of the trip! Later we would also meet Ishana, the third guide who looked after us during our stay.
We spent five full days in Bengaluru, exploring the city and attending lectures at St Joseph’s College of Commerce. We experienced so much in those first five days that it is impossible to provide an exact breakdown of our activities. Some highlights included participating in a traditional Indian yoga session, learning some Bollywood dance moves, playing cricket in the countryside and visiting Bangalore Palace. We also had the opportunity to sample some delicious Indian cuisine (dosas were my favourite!) and to meet lots of Indian students. It was great to chat to local people and learn more about their lives and culture first hand.
Stop two: Delhi
On day six of our trip, we took an internal flight to the capital city, Delhi. Although it is cliché, it has to be said that Delhi really is an assault on the senses. It is a city like none I have ever experienced or am likely to experience again. A chaotic blend of colour, heat and noise, Delhi is bursting with life and culture. We were fortunate enough to visit several religious institutions during our stay, including Jama Masjid, the ISCKON Temple, and the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib. We also attended insightful lectures about the role of women in Indian society and the legacy of British rule at Miranda House, the University of Delhi. Although Delhi is often considered an intimidating place, my experience was overwhelmingly positive. I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to visit and study there.
Stop three: Agra
Half-way through our stay in Delhi, we took a four-hour coach ride south-east to Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal. Staying only one night, we did not experience too much of the city beyond the magnificent World Heritage Site. We did however enjoy an interesting ‘Italian’ meal at a restaurant/club, which proved to be one of the most hilarious moments of the whole trip! The Taj Mahal was unsurprisingly spectacular and absolutely lived up to expectations. We were also lucky enough to visit Agra Fort, a nearby landmark with an incredible view of the Yamuna River and the Taj.
After twelve full days, it was finally time for us to say goodbye to India. When I met my family at the airport back in the UK, I found it difficult to express just how amazing my experience studying abroad had been. As a post-graduate, I thought that my time to study abroad had passed. This programme provided me with the opportunity to both study in an entirely new setting and experience an amazing culture so different to our own. Although I have now reached the end of my educational journey, I will always remember this trip and the friends I made. I therefore cannot recommend the ISC programme (and India) enough.
You can find out more about students who have studied abroad here.