Ever since I started learning Hindi the summer after my freshman year in University, I’ve heard about the UW in India program.
Hindi and the start of my India experience began in June of 2013 on a warm Madison, Wisconsin morning. I was excited but, a bit overwhelmed of learning yet another language (I had begun learning Mandarin Chinese throughout my freshmen year). However, over the course of the summer, I learned the basics and beauty of the Hindi language. I also had the privilege to learn about UW-Madison’s great history with the language program and specifically its connection to India. I’ve even had my Babcock Ice Cream scooped by Joe Elder, who even has his own flavor named after him called “Joe Elderberry”.
Don’t know who Joe Elder is? Well please do a quick internet search and then come back to this blog. Basically, in the early sixties, he shaped the College in India program which became the UW in India Program. (Which is the program I am currently studying abroad with). That makes this program the oldest study abroad program in UW Madison history. Just continuing on in the history that the UW in India program has established is fantastic enough.
Fast forward a few years later to a 5th year senior me. I’m studying abroad In Varanasi! Where actually is Varanasi? Well it’s in the state of Uttar Pradesh in Northern India. It’s a city with its own personality and distinct history (which I will talk about later in the semester).
Arriving at the program house after a long drive from the airport, I was greeted with the familiar University of Wisconsin crest.
Along the walls of the program house, pictures from years and years of students on this University of Wisconsin program are displayed. I can point out friends (shout out to Lydia “ladoo” and Jonathan), staff from the program house, and even my SASLI (South Asian Summer Language Institute) professor Virendra -ji. After this semester, my picture will be up on the wall along with the others.
In our classes we talk about previous students who have come and gone. They have studied and written many things, including one of the books we are currently reading about Varanasi. All the directed field study projects are in the program house for our reading pleasure and it really helps when coming up with ideas for my own field study project paper. There are years and years of papers to read.
I’ve met a few alumni from the program and get to see what they are doing. Harini-ji, one of the most knowledgeable and stylish women I’ve met, once said “Students never seem to be able to stay away from India. It has that effect”. There are alumni of the program who have come back to teach or research, or do whatever they can to come back to India. I can see why. This program has given me memories and knowledge that I will hold with me for the rest of my life and I’m less than a month into this program.
I just can’t say enough how proud I am to be a Badger and how happy I am that I am here in India on one of the coolest UW-Madison programs.