I decided to study abroad because I felt like I needed to leave my home institution. College can feel suffocating and so I looked forward to answering some deep and personal questions while studying abroad. A lot of people in my life, including my home institution, encouraged me to do so and so, I went.
I went to Hyderabad, India with CIEE and I stayed at the Tagore International House. For the first two weeks, it was training with others in my program and then we had a grace period (provided by the university) in order to sit in and then chose our classes. Unfortunately, there is no spring break but CIEE took us on an excursion to Bangalore for the weekend. CIEE also offers services, like sitar and henna lessons, for example. CIEE also worked with numerous organizations in India which is an option for those who want to do volunteer work. While I was in India, I focused on my studies and myself (which is the entire reason for me going abroad).
I paid for my experience through student loans from my home institution (Dickinson), personal fundraising from my family, and scholarships like Diversity Abroad and CIEE.
Before leaving to study abroad, I wish I would have known that you can't run away from your problems. Whatever problems one faces in one country will inevitably follow them to another country. Granted, communicating about those problems (and in the end, solving those problems) became difficult because I was 8,000 miles away from home but I still had to face and deal with issues that I was hoping to escape away from.
I experienced discrimation abroad based on my race, sex, and sexual orientation. India, like a lot of other places in the world including the United States, is not a very tolerant place. I was discriminated against because I am a black lesbian. I was told to be wary of me and to be careful because I am a woman. I was told to restrict my public behavior because being gay is a crime in India. And I received a lot of stares and unwanted attention based on my skin color (a lot of Indians assumed I was from Africa or the Caribbean).
Studying abroad has benefited me by giving me the time and space to breathe and think. I was so grateful for the opportunity to think about myself and think for myself. Academically, studying abroad has widened my education, which has simultaneously connected with my personal studies.
The most memorable moment of studying abroad was one day on the third weekend I was there. I was sitting on top of some rocks, looking at the moon and planes overhead, talking with some friends, and that's when I realized that I was in India. I had woken up at that moment and I was at awe at the stars and beautiful night sky.
The nightlife was cool! There are a lot of Ladies Nights available so drinking (especially cheap drinking) is always possible! I don't know much about the entertainment (not many American musicians or popular attractions go to India) but I do know that the University of Hyderabad hosted a concert with a DJ.
My study abroad experience has prepared me for my future career because I honed into my skills like adaptations and quick learning. But I also further developed skills like understanding that not everyone is conscious or willing to understand the way we live so I learned how to work with unconscious people.
I would recommend the program I was on, even though I had problems with it because I still had a fabulous time and the staff are supportive and encouraging (you get free chocolate when you visit the CIEE office on campus)
The advice I had for students studying abroad is that if you are doubtful, don't do it. It's a hassle and nightmare if one isn't sure and it takes a lot. Also, recognize that not going abroad is not the end of the world either. Going abroad is a privilege and should be seen as one and it takes a lot (including money) to go.