Written by Maggie Cram (University of Wisconsin-Madison) Alum, UW in India: Varanasi, Spring 2017
1. Don’t over pack. I was under the impression that I would not be able to find any of my toiletries here. I was so mistaken. The general stores on the side of the roads even have what you need- shampoo, body wash, qtips, toilet paper, etc. Conditioner and specific toothpastes (like sensodyne, which is my preference) is hard to come by but you can find it. Try a “Big Bazaar”. Pack travel sized items of what you need for the first week or two.
2.Bring travelers diarrhea pills, Imodium, and pepto bismol/tums. You will not regret having these. No matter how careful you are about what you put in your body you will get sick, the medication makes it easier to live with. Just know it will pass eventually.
3.Do not bother to bring insect repellent (or at least not as much as I brought!). “Odomos” which comes in a cream works so much better and smells better. The plug ins for the walls also help to keep the bugs away for the most part.
4.If you are a woman- you might be more comfortable wearing Indian dress while here. It isn’t a requirement but it helps minimize stares and makes you feel less like a tourist. Bring only 1 pair of jeans. You won’t use them after it starts warming up, which happens pretty quickly. Clothes here are really inexpensive so it isn’t hard to buy an entire wardrobe while here. Scarves (dupattas) are your friend.
5.Unfortunately, harassment does happen. It is usually verbal harassment. It is unsettling at times, especially in the evening or at night but for the most part it is just an annoying part of the day. You eventually learn to ignore it. However, know that you have a wonderful support system at the program-fellow students and staff, who you can turn to if you need any help or someone to talk to about it. It is always good to process events with someone else. The buddy system is highly recommended.
6.Do not be afraid to ask for help from the program staff. In that same vein- listen to your body. If you feel exhausted all the time or have been sick for a few days talk to the staff. DO NOT IGNORE IT. Ignoring symptoms is dangerous. Dehydration can happen very easily in the heat.
7.You can eat the food-you will learn to enjoy the spiciness. Avoid street food unless it is fried. Only drink filtered water or bottled water.
8.Have patience. Almost everything will not go as planned…and that is OKAY. Things will happen when they need to happen. Embrace P-time!!
9.There is wifi. Not always reliable but it is available in most cafes, hotels, the program house, and in your homestay.
10.You will be very overwhelmed upon arrival– I promise it gets better.