Is this Program Right for You?
Administered now by CET Academic Programs, the UW India program in Varanasi first launched in 1961 and is one of the oldest and most renowned academic programs in India. Program staff and teachers have guided scores of South Asia scholars, artists, and activists, and the program boasts a vast network of local connections. The program is rigorous and intense, culminating in an independent field study and research paper.
Far from your typical study abroad destination, Varanasi is a challenging and fascinating destination for students who want to be entirely removed from their comfort zone. It is an ancient city of immense cultural and religious significance. How is the Ganges River both pure and polluted? What is the sociology of bodies burning on its banks? What is the story behind the sari in the marketplace? The program brings students behind-the-scenes, into weavers’ workshops and musicians’ homes. The program's close connections with the local population—from fellow students/apprentices, to one's host mom, to the program cook—will help students frame their experience and ask the right questions, understanding that there are no easy answers.
AU students participating in the UW in Varanasi program earn a full semester of AU credit. The program is a 16-credit program composed of the following required course elements:
- Two core courses about India, taught in English (3 credits each).
- Hindi language class (typically 4 credits) --- Since language skills and immersion go hand-in-hand, Hindi language classes are a part of the curriculum. Hindi language study starts in Delhi, after the program orientation, with five days of intensive language classes. Once in Varanasi, Hindi classes proceed at a less intensive pace.
- Tutorial (3 credits) --- Learn to play the sitar. Try your hand at miniature painting. Study Urdu. Intern at Ashray Charitable Trust. The tutorial is a chance to do something new. It’s all about the experience of learning from a local guru, and engaging with your local community. You’ll choose from three types of tutorials—language, service-learning or internship, studio & performing arts.
- Directed Field Study (3 credits) --- The Directed Field Study is the centerpiece of the semester allowing students to deeply research a desired topic. Faculty and local experts help students refine a topic proposal, integrate methods, and provide feedback throughout. The Field Study culminates in a 20-page final research paper.
More details on the academic structure of the program can be found here at the CET website.
View the Course Equivalency Database to find out which courses on this program have already been equated to AU courses. Please note that you are NOT limited to just these courses. Students will need to request equivalency for courses which have not been previously reviewed. Read more about the course equivalency process and how AU counts study abroad credits on our Courses and Credits page.
Varanasi is one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in the world. People from all over India come to Varanasi on pilgrimage to pray, to practice, to purify. The program’s home base in Varanasi is known as The Program House—it is used by UW in India staff and students alone. This is where students take their classes. After class, students can study in the library, get on the Wifi, or just hang out with peers in the student lounge.
Activities and Excursions
The semester starts with a multi-day orientation in Delhi where students will be able to explore. The program also includes a four-day Traveling Seminar that takes learning on the road. Examples include a journey to Lucknow and visit the grand Bara Imambara shrine and Rumi Darwaza (the gorgeous “Turkish Gate”) to investigate Islam in the 17th and 18th centuries. Or a visit to Khajuraho to gaze up at monument after monument while learning about religion, esoteric practices, and the effects of tourism.
Housing and Meals
Students can live in a guesthouse, in an apartment with a local roommate, or with a host family. Housing is in a section of Varanasi that strikes a balance between traditional and modern—you’ll find a vegetable cart next to a department store, or a cow standing in front of your favorite café. As for meals, breakfasts and traditional Indian lunches are provided at the Program House. For dinners, you’ll eat with your host family, cook in your apartment, or head out to local eateries.
The UW in Varanasi program is available in both the Fall and Spring semesters, and has a special Academic Year option. Please see the program website for specific program dates.