Diversity & Inclusion at UW in India: Varanasi

At the UW in India program, students attend classes from 1.5 to 4.5 hours every day. Class size ranges from 1 to 10 students. Classes are usually 1.5 hour long, and there is a minimum 10-minute break in between classes. Students are expected to complete a minimum of 1 hour of homework for every hour in class. Outside of structured class time, students are expected to spend self-directed time on research and practice for Directed Field Study and Tutorial courses. A low-distraction test environment, extra time on exams and assignments, computer-based exams, audio recordings of lectures, note-takers, and exam readers are available for students with documented need. Syllabi, readings, and assignments in advance and/or in large text may also be available. Internships and service-learning placements are optional, and offer varied work environments and require varied tasks.

Service dogs are permitted in the Program House and surrounding area. A mobility orientation at the start of the program is available to students with documented need. Assistance of a sighted companion may also be available.

The Program House is a two-story building. Classes are held on the first and second floors, but class location may be altered for students with documented need. Restrooms are located on the first floor. The upper floor is accessed by a narrow stairway.

Distances between student housing and the Program Center are variable. Public transit is not available. Students may walk, bike, or take private rickshaws between housing and the Program House. Only some major streets have sidewalks. Sidewalks are often congested and generally do not have curb cuts or visual/audio signals. Sidewalks and streets may be made of brick, stone, or dirt and are highly uneven. Traffic is typically unruly.

During orientation, students stay in double hotel rooms with another program participant. Single rooms may be available for students with documented need. After arriving in Varanasi, students have three housing options. Students may live in a homestay with a local family, typically with their own bedroom and a shared or private bathroom. Students may live with a local roommate, typically in an apartment with a shared bedroom and bathroom. Students may live in a guesthouse, typically with their own bedrooms and a shared or private bathroom. Shared housing is with students of the same gender.

The Indian Supreme Court overturned Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code in September 2018, decriminalizing homosexuality nationwide. Hijras, a term for transgender individuals, are legally recognized as a third gender under Indian law. The government reserves government seats and jobs for transgender people and prohibits discrimination. The government also prohibits discrimination towards people with disabilities and reserves designated spots in universities, at places of employment, and on public transportation.

After class and on weekends, there are mandatory academic activities and optional trips and activities at nearby sites and other cities. Excursions may involve extended travel by bus, urban walking, rural hiking, and/or going up and down stairs. Transportation to excursions or site visits to which students and program staff typically walk is available. Excused absences are available for students with documented need.

Students generally do not prepare their own meals. They eat as a group at the program house where a program cook prepares meals, or at their homestay with their host family. Some housing provides students access to their own kitchens, but this is irregular and not guaranteed. Meals are generally vegetarian or vegan. Some food allergies and diets may be accommodated provided that these needs are communicated by the student to CET staff prior to departure.

Students have access to a local university campus, which provides a track, and tennis and basketball courts. Swimming pools are available in some local hotels but may be subject to fees. There are some private gyms in Varanasi, but they are not close to the program neighborhood.

There are several health facilities available to students. Service is typically available in English. Mental health resources, including psychologists and psychiatrists, are available, with services in English.

Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. Varanasi is religiously diverse—Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other religions are practiced. There are local Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jain, Buddhist, and Sikh places of worship, but they may require commutes to other parts of the city. English-language services are very limited.

For more information about program expenses and financial support: