Friday, May 2, 2014

On the Road: Dehradun

Well the trip is over, but I wanted to let you know what we did in Dehradun:

After the crowds and heat of the big cities, it was so refreshing to go up to the foothills of the Himalayas and  rest. We spent a day debriefing the past semester and discussing what we learned and how we can take these things back home with us. 

Another day was spent learning about the Tibetan refugee issue and getting a chance to hang out with some Tibetan guys at a drug rehabilitation center. It was a cool experience to interact with them, play sports, and try their delicious food. 

Playing volleyball with the Tibetan guys
A major highlight of the End of Semester trip would definitely have to be whitewater rafting on the Ganges river. We drove a few hours away to the town of Rishikesh which is famous for several things: it is where Shiva is said to have stepped out of the mountains, the Beatles had an ashram there, and the clean clear Ganges river flows out of the mountains! Needless to say, it is very beautiful and a very unique experience, as well as tons of fun!

Bridge overlooking the Ganges
Whitewater rafting on the Ganges River

Whitewater rafting on the Ganges river
Another day we traveled higher up the mountain to a hillstation called Mussoorie where we got a chance to hike around and see the snow capped Himalayan mountains! So beautiful and refreshing!

Snow capped peaks of the Himalayas!
We took the train back to Delhi and spent the day getting in some last shopping and eating Indian food before it was time for students to board their flights and head home. We wish you all well!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

On the Road: Agra

Today was Taj Mahal day!! We arrived early in Agra and so went straight from the train station to tour Agra Fort before it got too hot. It was interesting to hear the story of Shah Jahan’s imprisonment in the fort and how he lived out the last of his days seeing the Taj Mahal through his bedroom window, but never actually got to visit it!

Taj Mahal
After a time to rest, go shopping and get some lunch (buffalo biriyani) we set out to see the Taj Mahal! 

Batch 6 at the Taj Mahal

ISP staff

On the Road: Varanasi

 Welcome to the holy city of Varanasi on the bank of the Ganges River! We wound our way through the narrow alleys- ducking by cows, avoiding cow patties, past rickshaws, and through crowds to get to our hotel overlooking the Ganga! 
The Ganges River
We spent the afternoon walking through the streets learning about the city and Hindu culture and religion from our guide. We went inside ancient palaces, overlooked the burning ghats, and tried tea from a clay cup. In the evening we floated down the river on a boat tour to see the evening aarti. Aarti is a worship ritual to Mother Ganga involving fire and incense and the ringing of bells. Finally we ended our day with a superb dinner of authentic Italian pizza and amazing apple pie (an ISP tradition)!

Evening boat ride on the Ganges to view the river aarti
The next day was just a free day to catch up on some sleep and explore the alleyways to get in some good shopping. Of course we had to visit our favourite shop- The Blue Lassi for this batch to try their amazing creations! Several students got up early to watch the sun rise over the Ganga and walk along the ghats to watch the morning rituals and commotion. 

Sunrise over the Ganges
Blue Lassi!!

On the Road: Calcutta

We reached Calcutta in the wee hours of the morning and made our way to our hotel- the oldest YMCA in Asia with lots of character.
Oldest YMCA in Asia
In the morning we visited Mother Theresa’s burial site and the Mother House where we learned about her amazing life of sacrifice. Then we toured Victoria Memorial which is a beautiful museum filled with history of the British Raj. Finally, we went for kathi rolls- street food at its finest-before enjoying a free afternoon of shopping and relaxing.
Chrissie, Maaike, and Lydia at the Victoria Memorial
  Happy Easter from Calcutta!! Students enjoyed the free day to explore the city.

Megan, Sarah, Maaike, and Chrissie enjoy kathi rolls
 Monday was very busy- first students visited an organization called Sari Bari which rescues women that were caught in sex trade and teaches them how to sew. The women use old torn saris that have been thrown away and create beautiful blankets and bags. The analogy is striking- taking something considered to be broken, useless, and dirty, and transforming it into something beautiful and of value! Students also visited Mother Theresa’s Home for the Dying where thousands of people have come off the street to be taken care of and die in peace. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

On the Road: Bapatla

The chance to be kid again. To run around freely-shouting, dancing, singing, and playing to our hearts content. More importantly, the chance to play with kids and to love on them! This is what we have been doing for the past couple of days at a children’s home in Bapatla-rural Andhra Pradesh.

Uncle and Auntie run a children’s home for about 150 kids who are either orphans or from poor or broken families. The children are given a home to stay in, as well as an English-medium education. We were able to tour the school and visit the children in their classrooms. Then we spent the afternoon playing volleyball, football (soccer), tag and every other running game imaginable with them! 
Playing games with the children
In the evening our students taught and led several action songs before again dispersing to play. Our students were surrounded on all sides by kids pulling them in every direction and shouts of “sister, sister” “brother, brother”! We danced. We sang. We chased. We laughed. We loved. By evening we were all exhausted and sweaty, but every face glowed with the joy and excitement of playing with these wonderful children. We have one more evening with them and you can bet it will be just as tiring and beautiful!

Leading action songs
This morning we drove to the Bay of Bengal to visit the beach. It was amazing to watch the sun rise over the ocean and to just spend some time to be quiet and recharge or to have fun playing in the water!

Sunrise over the Bay of Bengal
Tomorrow morning bright and…. No, never mind, it won’t be bright, just EARLY (as in 3:45am) we head to the train station to continue up north to Kolkata. Twenty-five hours on a train here we come!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

On the Road: BIRDS

On Sunday evening, we boarded the train to start our 18 days of travel across north India!

First stop: the small rural village of Cuddapah in the middle of Andhra Pradesh.

We are visiting an organization called BIRDS which works with farmers in learning how to become more self-sustaining. The program also rescues girls caught in the sex trafficking trade and runs a children's home and school. Uncle obviously is involved in a great number of projects, and he took the time to explain how BIRDS started and what they are doing.

We were able to visit a local village where the farmers are implementing their new knowledge and had a chance to ask them questions about their experience.

Visiting a local village
We also went for a hike through the forest-stopping to see many Hindu temples and shrines along the way. 

Our hike through the woods
Tonight we board the train headed to another small village in Andhra Pradesh to visit a children's home.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

"All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go..."

We're heading out tomorrow to start our 18 day trek across north India!

As of Friday, all of the classes are over- papers are turned in and presentations are completed. We ended by having a celebratory meal put on my the Catering class to demonstrate all that they have learned over the course. Delicious!

Friday night was Candlelight- a special ceremony to honor those that have made this semester possible and to celebrate the student's hard work.
Kirk congratulating the students for their hard work
Batch 6 is DONE!
Batch 6 with their friends
Students are making the most of their last weekend here- visiting their favorite restaurants and hanging out with their friends.

The journey will comprise of about 85 hours of train travel, 7 different cities, from the Bay of Bengal all the way up to the foothills of the Himalayas. Follow our journey here to get updates of what the students are up to!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Week of 'Lasts'

It's hard to believe that this is our last week in Coimbatore! Students still remember their first time to the grocery store, restaurants, and classes. It's amazing how fast the semester has gone!

This week students are turning in their final papers and presenting their various projects:

Students Shaina and Amber from the Indian Design class designed and created beautiful saris. Fellow students Maaike and Megan did a great job modeling the designs!
Design students, their models, and the professors
 Students in the Art class had to come up with some art form to show what they have learned about India over the semester. Kara and Chrissie wowed us with a Bollywood-style dance and Corey presented photography on the Powers of Women in India.
Art students with their professor and Kirk Ji
Students are also trying to make the most of this week and enjoy their 'lasts'. Last times with friends, last sunsets on the rooftop, last times to eat out at their favorite restaurants, last chances to shop, and last chances to explore Coimbatore.
Sunset from the rooftop of Raheja-overlooking the mountains and the Taj
Apartment 408 enjoying dinner out together
Apartment 408 PLUS Corey!

Monday, March 31, 2014

10 Reasons to spend your next semester in India

Are you looking into studying abroad next semester and trying to decide where to go? Are you interested in social justice, learning about world religions, good food, wildlife, and adventures? Consider studying abroad with India Studies Program and immersing yourself in the Indian culture!

Here are 10 reasons you should study with ISP:

1. Travel. While ISP is based in the south in Tamil Nadu, one of the highlights of the program is our extensive travel component. During the semester, you will go on three 3-5 day trips to neighboring cities and states to visit people and programs, as well as to enjoy what those areas have to offer including food and famous sites. At the end of the semester you will enjoy an 18 day trip across north India hitting various cities such as Calcutta, Varanasi, Delhi, and Agra! Think Mother Theresa, Agra Fort, Taj Mahal, Ganges river...

Batch 5 visits the Taj Mahal
2. NGOs and job opportunities- You can come to India and enjoy all the tourist attractions on your own. But when you study with ISP, you will be introduced to people and organizations that are doing great work here in India. Interested in education, business, sex trafficking, outdoor adventure, or enterpreneurship? We'll show you what opportunities are open to you here and what is already being done.

Shiamala Baby's women empowerment organization
3. Festivals. India is known for its fun and bright festivals. No matter what semester you come, you will have the chance to join in the celebrations. Fall semester students will experience Diwali- the Festival of Lights with lots of fireworks and sweets. Spring semester students will cover each other in bright colored powder when they participate in Holi-the Festival of Colors.

Celebrating Holi
4. Friendships. One of the best aspects of a study abroad experience can be the friends you make, whether those are Indian friends or other American students on your trip. These are friendships that could last a lifetime as you learn from each other.
Camel rides on the beach
5. Adventures. From white water rafting on the Ganges river, to possible elephant rides, to swimming in the Indian ocean in a salwar kameez, to boating on the Backwaters of Kerala, to camping in the wilderness, to train rides- you will find adventure in India!
Repelling down the side of a waterfall
6. Food. There are so many great restaurants and road-side stands to choose from with a variety of delectable cuisines. If you take the Catering class, you will have the chance to learn how to cook Indian dishes!
The Catering class enjoys the fruits of their labor
7. Clothes. All right ladies, this one is for you. India is a colorful nation with gorgeous saris at every turn. Fabrics are very affordable, tailors are numerous, and there are rows upon rows of saris to choose from. If you take the Design class, you will even get a chance to design your very own outfit!

The girls enjoy dressing up in beautiful sarees and salwars
8.Chai. Once you've tasted this sweet milky drink, there is no turning back. One of the great parts of this culture is that there is always time to take a chai break during the day!
Traditional way chai is served here
9. Language opportunities. Tamil is the official language of Tamil Nadu and is offered as one of our classes. However, you will most definitely meet people from Kerala and be introduced to the Malayalam language and North Indian people who speak Hindi.
Watching a traditional Kerala Kathakali dance
10. Discovering the Divine image. While in India you will come in close contact with people from other faith backgrounds than yourself. What can we learn from them? Learn about world religions and how they are practiced in India.

Convinced? Come join us next semester!! 
To apply, go to:

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Happy Holi from ISP

Happy Holi!
Okay, so we know that Holi was actually a week ago (March 17th) but due to our travel schedule we couldn't celebrate on the actual date, but better late than never right?!

For those of you who don't know what Holi is: it is the Festival of Colors. The idea is to throw colored water and powder at each other! This festival is celebrated all across India and no one is spared-old, women, and children alike all participate! The Color Run is actually a take off of Holi.

After inviting several of our Indian friends over to join us and changing into white shirts- the fun began!

But enough talk: let's see the results of our celebration!
Apartment 207- brightly decorated
Apartment 408: totally covered in color
Posing with some of our Indian friends
Yep: we had fun!
To see more pictures from our fun night, check out our Facebook page:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Beauty of Ooty

This past weekend we took a trip up the mountains to the hill station of Ooty! With its rolling hills covered in tea plants and cool mountain breeze, Ooty offers a beautiful respite from the heat of Coimbatore.
Shaina, Chrissie, Kelly, and Amber enjoy the beauty of Ooty
Right from the start, we knew this trip would be an adventure when just 1 hour into the trip we blew a tire. No big deal, just a chance to get some cold drinks and snacks at a local shop before pressing on. Just as we started heading up the mountains on the switch-backs, another tire popped! While the driver headed back down the mountain to get another tire, we took advantage of the time to have a nice picnic lunch…until a curious monkey showed up. We learned a very important lesson that day: never feed a monkey, because they will always want to come back for more and may bring their friends! We spent the next hour on high alert for monkeys with piles of rocks lined up to keep them at bay!
Lydia tryingto read by the side of the road with a pile of rocks ready for battle against the monkeys
Our local trips serve a variety of purposes: one of the main things is to expose students to different opportunities to work abroad and to learn about what is being done in India. We had the opportunity to visit Freedom Firm which is a branch off of International Justice Mission (IJM) that aims to Rescue, Restore, and bring Justice for women who are trapped in the sex trade. We met some of the young women and saw their beautiful handicrafts-from earrings to necklaces to bracelets. Another day we learned about Sister’s International that works to grow confident young women that will be the leaders of tomorrow. We also visited Hebron- a world famous international school, a tea factory where we learned how tea is processed, and a traditional Toda village to see how they live.

Enjoying a fresh cup of chai at the tea factory
Another highlight was our camping trip to Avalanche which is located deep in the forest right on the edge of a lake. After an hour hike into camp, we were rewarded with a spectacular view and the peace and beauty of nature all around us. During the day we had the chance to repel (for some it was their first time-how cool to say your first time repelling was in India?!) go kayaking, and just rest and relax in hammocks. In the evening we enjoyed a campfire and a night hike to see the brilliant stars before snuggling under piles of blankets in our tents.
Hiking out of camp: spotted a tiger track in the dust!
Chrissie, Lydia, and Shaina get ready to repel down the side of a waterfall
For more pictures: visit our Facebook page:

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Check off the 'ol Bucket List

This past weekend we finally checked off something that is on nearly everyone's bucket list when they go to India: Riding an Elephant!

We drove up to Parambikulam Tiger Reserve for the day and went on a safari. We really enjoyed the beautiful scenery and much cooler temperatures.

In the afternoon we all got the chance to ride the elephants through the forest. Quite a memorable experience!

For more photos check out our Facebook page: