Words can only carry one so far when describing a place like India. It is a mesmerizing and mystic country, which can only be defined by experience, and nowhere is the tremendous diversity of culture more readily on display than in the bustling national capital of New Delhi. Whether in the sweltering summer heat or frenzied tropical monsoon, when walking the streets of New Delhi there is never a dull moment. And for students seeking a unique array of life lessons that transcend any academic experience, there is perhaps no better place in the world to consider studying abroad.
Subjects & Courses
Regardless of your academic concentration, the city of New Delhi is bursting at the seams from a wealth of cultural knowledge to be experienced for students studying abroad. From business marketing to urban planning to philosophy, students of all disciplines can learn a lot from this incredibly unique and diverse metropolis. Many study abroad programs will offer work-study, especially those focused on the field of medicine, or volunteer programs which allow action-oriented students to engage directly with the surrounding community. This is a great way to discover the city while applying your academic studies to real life situations.
Within the classroom, classes in India typically follow a lecture format supplemented by testing and individual work or research. Colleges such as the University of Delhi and Jawaharlal Nehru University offer up respectable educations that remain competitive with elite Western institutions. While the student bodies at most universities consist dominantly of Indian nationals, foreign students can apply for enrollment and are generally accepted with open arms. Many study abroad programs also boast their own staff at smaller international schools, where courses are designed exclusively for study abroad students.
The Indian school year typically runs from July to May, with winter and summer breaks separating terms. If planning to go during fall semester, expect high temperatures and humidity in July, followed by the monsoon season in August, followed by more pleasant weather throughout fall. Expect more moderate temperatures throughout if planning on attending Spring semester.
Courses are primarily taught in English, making them easily accessible to foreign students. Indeed you will find that throughout the country the educated class speaks English quite fluently, greatly simplifying business and academic interactions. And while the primary language in Delhi remains Hindi, even the uneducated in cities often know enough English for casual interaction. Nevertheless, you will find that learning a little Hindi can take you a long way. The Indian people are wonderful to interact with, so you will find that making the effort pays off.
Life in New Delhi
There are over 20 million people living in the greater Delhi area, generating a lively vein of activity through the streets that never seems to run dry. As a result, every step out of the apartment becomes an adventure, and every day brings something new and unexpected. Poverty does remain a major issue throughout the country, and is especially concentrated in cities such as Delhi, where rural villagers flock in search of economic opportunity. The density and deprivation can be intense at times, especially for unacclimated foreign travelers, but this is all part of the greater cultural immersion that India compels for study abroad students.
In navigating a city like New Delhi, walking may not be your best option. One step out onto the streets and you will see why. The infamous Delhi traffic is an emblem of the larger chaos that pervades the city. Horns blaring everywhere, cars darting around erratically, entire families piled onto motor bikes – plus the basic lack of infrastructure means few walkable sidewalks. Your best bet is usually to hail an auto rickshaw, which drive by frequently and will take you door-to-door anywhere in the city for just a couple of dollars. Delhi’s brand new subway also provides a cheap and fast form of transportation, although it is often crowded and does not stop in many parts of the city.
India is a very spiritual country, and you will see the diversity of religious traditions all come together harmoniously in New Delhi. The city is speckled with beautiful mosques, extravagant Hindu and Sikh temples, and even Christian missionary churches, great places to visit during study in New Delhi. Prayer chants pervade the evening sky and what seem like almost weekly festivals regularly bring processions of singing and dancing to the streets. At the same time, you will come to see that many of these conservative traditions are beginning to change as an emerging counter-culture youth movement continues to modernize the country. Just one more reason why this is an exciting time to study abroad in India.
Accommodation & Visas
Homestays and individual apartments tend to be popular options for foreign students studying in New Delhi. Homestays offer a first hand experience of the tight-knit Indian family unit. In addition to delicious and consistent meals, students will be invited to festivals, temples, and if lucky maybe even a wedding. Apartments offer the opportunity to lead a more individualistic lifestyle and give the prospective student more complete autonomy over their everyday routine. Study abroad program providers will generally help to organize either accommodation.
While there are indeed good and bad neighborhoods In New Delhi, the rich tend to live in close proximity with the poor. This is just another thing that makes the city such an interesting place to live. Most houses or apartment buildings have hired security guards at the gates to ward off unwanted visitors. Additionally most homestays will have hired help on staff. This is a custom of Indian society which can be hard to swallow for Westerners particularly opposed to the concept of a “servant.” However It is important to understand that beyond cultural differences, there is such an abundance of labor in India that a steady job as part of a household is considered very gainful employment for many of the nation’s poorer occupants. In most cases they become an extended part of the family.
You will need a visa if you plan to study in India, and these are generally fairly easy to attain. Six-month to year long student visas are most common for study abroad participants.
It is best to consult your program provider on what type of visa you should apply for. While a smooth process, you will probably want to get this done early on to avoid the stress of trying to obtain a visa the day before your departure.
Benefits & Challenges
In Delhi, as in most other great cities of the world, you will come to find that experience is the best teacher. India is its own region of the world, as beautiful and diverse as it is complex and mystifying. For students seeking an adventure that includes unique life experiences, expansive (and inexpensive) travel opportunities, and a healthy dose of culture shock, New Delhi may be the city for you. It can be the most wonderful challenge you ever embark upon – all that is required is that you make the leap.