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:

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Memorable Moments: Kerala

On Wednesday morning we woke up on the train to see the sun rising over lush rice paddies and coconut and banana trees as we arrived in ‘God’s Own Country’- Kerala.
Shaina, Lydia, Amber, Chrissie, and Kelly jump for joy by the Arabian Sea
     We spent our mornings learning about Economics, the Kerala model of development, and Indian politics from our dear friends at Vichara.

    The following day we went to visit Amma's Ashram. Amma is known around the world as 'the Hugging Saint' who is worshiped as a goddess. This was the second time in ISP history that Amma was at the ashram because she is so busy with her world tours. The students were surprised to see so many foreigners who have come from around the world to learn from Amma and they were curious as to what drew them to her. Adding to the excitement of the trip: there was an elephant at the ashram which some of the students got to feed!
Kara, Shaina, Amber, Chrissie, and Kelly with an elephant at Amma's Ashram
     One afternoon we visited the site where St. Thomas is said to have stepped off the boat and landed in India. What a privilege to sit on the banks and look out to where a man who knew Jesus had once walked. We also visited several churches that Thomas started.

  On our final day in Kerala we went to Fort Cochin for a free day to do the tourist thing. The students could wander off and explore Jewtown, the Dutch palace, a Jain temple, Hindu temples, and the beach. They all got in some good shopping and delicious food before re-gathering in the evening for a Kathakali show. Kathakali is a famous traditional Kerala style of dancing which was quite different from anything we had seen before
Batch 6 with the Kathakali dancers
Night trains- We all remember waking up to hear the familiar cry ‘chaaaaiiii, chaaaaaiii, coFFEE, coFFEE!!!!
Party Bus- With the disco lights flashing, wind whipping through our hair, and some loud Hindi music blaring as we all had a party as we danced along.
Camel rides- We arrived at the beach and immediately spotted several scruffy camels with over eager owners. Students jostled on the camels two-by-two down the beach at a trot while I, (Hannah) tried to keep up and jog behind through the sand to take some snaps.
Maaike and Megan riding a camel
Arabian Sea- I’m just going to include this in transportation since all of us who swam got tossed around quite a bit and taken for several ‘rides’ as we were strewn across the sand by the pounding waves!
Boat- I think the boat ride was one of the highlights of the trip because it was so relaxing. The Backwaters of Kerala are called the 'Venice of the East' and boating through them is listed in Lonely Planet's list to do before you die. We thoroughly enjoyed these moments of peace and tranquility.
Boating on the backwaters of Kerala

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Internships (2.0)

Three more of our students share their experiences from their internships:

Megan Morris: 
"My internship at Ashirwaad Special School was a wonderful learning experience for me. I was able to help assist and tutor students with mental/physical disabilities, as well as observe and learn from the staff and students alike throughout my three weeks. My favorite part was being able to learn about Ashirwaad and similar organizations in the context of India, and compare it to American organizations who's efforts include serving the mentally and physically disabled. I think both sides have things to learn from each other. I was also incredibly blessed to get a more micro, personal experience with the organization as I was able to get to know and form relationships with the students. Each student was so unique and gifted in their own ways- I walked away from that school learning more from the students then what I attempted to teach them over those three weeks."

Megan with the kids at Ashirwad

Lydia Phoenix:
"I spent the last three weeks at Stanes Higher Secondary School, where I spent most of my time substitute teaching in elementary grade classrooms. I loved being with the kids every day and teaching them anything from adding money to crazy American children’s songs. When I wasn’t subbing I had the chance to observe in classrooms and learn from experienced teachers. Everyone was so welcoming and I thoroughly enjoyed my internship experience!"

Lydia with her students at Stanes School
Amber Heckman:
"During my time at Roots Industries I observed people working in the marketing department and all of the responsibilities that they did on a daily basis. This is me learning about all of the different sale strategies Roots uses for it's products."
Amber working at Roots

Monday, March 3, 2014


For the past 3 weeks, our students have been working at various internship sites across the city. Each student was assigned to a site that followed in their interests and majors such as schools orbusinesses. They have been had the opportunity to watch and learn how organizations are run, as well as participate and help out in various ways. Here, a few students tell of their experiences:

Shaina Derstine: 
"The past three weeks I have had the privilege of working at Ortho One hospital. Here I was able to observe care in physiotherapy, OP, the ward, and was even allowed to watch an ACL reconstruction surgery. The staff at Orth One was so friendly and compassionate, and always took time to explain different procedures to me when I did not understand.​"

Shaina at Ortho One
Shaina at Ortho One
Chrissie Lewis:
"I have been placed in multiple locations to learn about exporting and importing. Most of my internship has been at Geniies IT & Services Private Limited. They have two entities one in e-publishing and another in 3D animations. I have loved working with this company and making connections throughout Coimbatore." 

Chrissie at Geniies

Corey Nelson and Kelly Reszka:
"Corey and I are working with IMAYAM Social Welfare Organization. This organization focuses on community development and the empowerment of women.We have the incredible opportunity to observe and interact in places where IMAYAM program are established. It has been so exciting to learn about this organization and we have been given the job of compiling their annual report. This experience has been incredible."

Corey nd Kelly with IMAYAM