“IFSA allowed us to have so much independence and flexibility, which allowed us to engage with the local culture and explore the city right from the start.”
SPRING : November 1
- DATES AND FEES
Experience how the influx of religious pilgrims to the sacred Ganges River has given rise to unique urban and environmental issues over the centuries. Through studying Hindi or Urdu language, living with a host family, and learning an Indian art form or artisan trade, you will be fully immersed in Varanasi's daily life!
The City, the River, the Sacred program challenges you to examine the urban realities and geography that define Varanasi and place it in a greater context of national and global currents. This 15-credit semester is comprised of a core course and field component, plus Hindi or Urdu language and 2 electives. Students choose from three Culture in Practice field component options: music and dance, yoga and yoga theory, or artisanal apprenticeship, which take learning outside of the classroom and into local communities.
REQUIRED COURSES (3 U.S. semester credit hours each):
- Varanasi: City of Confluence: This interdisciplinary core course explores the complex intersections of the city, the river, and the sacred that both define Varanasi and place it in the greater context of national and global environmental, urban, and religious currents. Various local field visits are also incorporated into this course.
- Beginning Hindi or Beginning Urdu: Fundamentals of conversation and written Hindi or Urdu for beginning students. Intermediate and advanced levels will be taught through individual tutorials, such as Intermediate Hindi.
- Culture in Practice (Music and Dance; Yoga and Yoga Theory; Artisanal Apprenticeship): This field-based component provides the rare opportunity for students to go into the local community and study under master teachers known as gurus. Students choose from three options: music and dance, yoga and yoga theory, or artisanal apprenticeship and spend the semester examining the history and theories behind them as well as learning the skill or trade first-hand.
ELECTIVE COURSES (3 U.S. semester credit hours each):
Not all electives may be offered in a given semester depending on enrollment and faculty availability.
- Studies in Gender: This course introduces students to salient discourses and local practices in Indian society from a gender perspective. Through a socio-cultural framework, students explore the diversity of social practices and complexities of gender relations in different social groups. The course highlights key structural issues and marginalization of women in the economic, legal and cultural areas. It also focuses on counter responses in the form of activism and social movements. Case studies from diverse areas supplement the conceptual analysis.
- Peace and Conflict Studies: Gandhi and Beyond: Peace and conflict studies have taken on an important role in South Asia studies in the last decades of 20th century. This course analyzes the links between conflicts, security and development in the theoretical framework keeping special focus on the Indian experience against the wider context of South Asia. Selected lectures also focus on Varanasi, a representative site of contestation and cooperation for inter-civilizational dialogue and communal peace.
- Living Religious Traditions in India: This course aims to expose students to the religious diversity of India and enhance their understanding of the diverse and composite character of Indian culture and its people. The course focuses on the study of the history, texts, beliefs, and practices pertaining to the main religious traditions of India (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Islam, and Sikhism), while also exploring the socio-political implication of religious beliefs and customs. Students develop an academic understanding of the festivals and rituals that may be observed during a semester in Varanasi.
- Exploring Community & Culture in a Global Context: Through a creative asynchronous online format, this course facilitates active engagement with your host community, exploration of cultural identity and examination of diversity in the context of political, economic and sociocultural structures. Students cover topics such as intercultural communication skills, intercultural learning theories, tools for intercultural analysis and the development of personal strategies for engaging with differences of any kind following the study abroad experience. This course is ideal for students seeking transferable skills and specific competencies for success in the global marketplace. Depending on your chosen IFSA program, this course may be taken as a part of or in addition to your full credit load. Home institution approval is required for enrollment.
Students may select Directed Research as an alternative to the Culture in Practice field component. Pre-approval is required prior to November 15 (for spring semester) and May 1 (for fall semester). Contact your Program Advisor for more information about this option. Students who choose to pursue directed research as their field component are paired with a faculty member appropriate to their academic area of interest, such as performing arts, religious or cultural studies, tribal, environmental or women's issues, or text-based historical research, and are expected to produce a formal research paper. Research students have regular meetings with faculty guides in their subject area to discuss the formation and execution of their research plans. All directed research projects are subject to the interest and availability of faculty and feasibility in the program location.
CULTURE IN PRACTICE The Culture in Practice required component provides students with the rare opportunity to study under master teachers in the local community. Students spend a third of their time in a classroom setting with their peers. Weekly lectures provide the academic framework in which students learn about the theory and history of their Culture in Practice choice. The remaining two-thirds of the class are spent in practice, focusing on a specific aspect of the category chosen. Here, students study their respective art or discipline first-hand through one-on-one or small group lessons with their teachers. Regular assessments are conducted jointly by the professor and the teacher throughout the semester.
- MUSIC AND DANCE: Varanasi boasts a longstanding tradition of music that is still vibrant in the city today. Despite the widespread popularity of Bollywood, Indian classical music has continued to play a prominent role in the socio-cultural life of the city. The active performing arts community in Varanasi has a strong legacy in classical Indian music, and was home to legendary figures like Pandit Shanto Prasad (tabla) and Pandit Ravi Shankar (sitar). Music students are introduced to North Indian classical music and dance through the Indian method of learning. Lectures for music and dance students are led by scholars of Indian performing arts, providing a historical and theoretical foundation for the student's experience. Students may choose from instruments such as tabla or sitar, Khyal classical singing, or Kathak dance.
- YOGA AND YOGA THEORY: The Hindu spiritual destination, Varanasi is home to hundreds of shrines and temples and remains the center for Hindu enlightenment, yoga, and learning. An integral part of Hinduism, yoga has been practiced in India for centuries as a way of freeing the mind, body, and spirit. For these reasons Varanasi provides yoga students with a wealth of context and opportunities for profound experiential learning. Students have classroom lectures with their Yoga professor two times per week to study both the religious and theoretical foundations of Yoga. Students then meet regularly with their teacher to practice Yoga.
- ARTISANAL APPRENTICESHIP: Varanasi, long known as a center for silk production, has attracted many of the world's finest luxury brands to its doorstep. This apprenticeship provides an opportunity to study local crafts and trades of significant importance to the local economy in Varanasi. During weekly courses students learn about the history and importance of trades, such as silk weaving and ceramics, and venture into artisan communities throughout the city accompanied by a professor. In private classes with teachers, students enjoy hands on learning using looms and pottery wheels to better understand the level of skill and artistry in existence in Varanasi today.
After you return to the U.S., IFSA will send an official Butler University transcript to your home university with your coursework converted to the U.S. credit system. You will also have access to an unofficial transcript in your IFSA Student Portal. The transcript reflects courses taken, credits attempted, and grades earned during your term abroad. This service is included in your study abroad program at no additional cost.
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What Our Students Say
“The biggest thing I learned is the value of immersing oneself in a culture unlike that which you come from. Even though Australia speaks English, the culture has taught me to relax and take everything one step at a time.”
“I enjoyed the academic and personal freedom of my IFSA program. Being able to take whatever classes I wanted/needed in order to satisfy my requirements for major and what happened to interest me set the foundation for my study abroad experience.”
“For two years, I have tried to manage and exist with depression and anxiety. Coming to New Zealand enlivened me and gave me the tools to function and create the life I want and need. I was able to live somewhere for the first time away from family and friends and thrive in it. It allowed me to realize my potential and ability.”
Student, New Zealand
“I’ve learned about the culture my family comes from, more about the world in general, and the different ways there are to simply live. Above all, I think I’ve learned a lot about myself and my behavior—how I tend to act and react in situations. I’ve also become more assertive, courageous, and confident through this experience.”
“My IFSA program was amazing. They really do a great job making sure you adjust well and are well equipped for your time abroad.”
“Through IFSA, I learned to enjoy the small things in life, was able to better understand a culture different from mine, developed intellectually through independent study, and improved my Spanish.”
“The connections I made during my time in Scotland was the most enjoyable aspect of my IFSA study abroad abroad experience. I was able to connect with peers on the program, IFSA staff, and the local culture. Being part of the St. Andrews basketball team really facilitated my relationship with the campus and its students.”
“Through my IFSA program, I volunteered at a travel startup where I initiated and developed a six-month lesson plan for the first English teaching program in a Mayan community, created a cost plan for program volunteers, and translated itineraries.”
“I enjoyed study abroad the most when I got courage to speak at my first poetry SLAM, befriend a fanzine publisher, and speak up (in my broken Spanish) in my film class. Having the courage to own who I am made me feel good.
Unpacked: Student Stories
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