UW in India: Varanasi

Varanasi, India

Varanasi: one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in the world. Yet there’s something new around every corner.

Stroll through the old city, kachori (fried puffed bread) and lassi in hand—Varanasi is so small, you can travel everywhere on foot. You might buy a shalwar kameez (traditional South Asian clothing) to dress like a local, and end up chatting with the shopkeeper in Hindi. Get inspired to join a music class. Keep an eye out for the Prime Minister’s entourage…he visits once a month. Or plan a weekend adventure—book a train ticket to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, or to Bodh Gaya, where the Buddha was born.

People from all over India come to Varanasi on pilgrimage to pray, to practice, to purify. What will you find in Varanasi? How will the city change you?

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Your Local Circle of Friends

Immersing in a place means engaging with locals, and this program gives you the keys to get started. Prepare for a holiday or go to a wedding with your host family. Chat with your guru after your painting tutorial. Join a Bollywood dance class. Organize a chai-making tutorial with your program staff. Try on a sari with your host sister…and have one tailored for a friend at home. Go in search of the perfect samosa with a new Indian friend.

Varanasi is a small town with a big heart. If you’re looking for community, there’s nowhere better to start.

The Program House

The program’s home base in Varanasi is known as The Program House—it is used by UW in India staff and students alone. This is where you’ll take your classes. After class, you can study in the library, get on the wifi, or just hang out with peers in the student lounge.

Housing & Meals

You’ll live in a family-run student guesthouse, in an apartment with a local roommate, or with a host family. Housing is in a section of Varanasi that strikes a balance between traditional and modern—you’ll find a vegetable cart next to a department store, or a cow standing in front of your favorite café.

As for meals, get ready to love the food! Breakfasts (our chef’s specialty is the masala omelette) and traditional Indian lunches are provided at the Program House. For dinners, you’ll eat with your host family, cook in your apartment, or head out to local eateries.

“Living with my host family was one of the best parts of study abroad. I loved coming home, saying hi to my dadi ji and dada ji, whom I would often see sitting at the nearby chai stall, or stopping by Seema’s room to watch Bollywood music videos. Not only was my host mom happy to chat with me after school, she also included me in going to weddings, shopping trips, or classical music concerts.” – Raina Langevin, University of Rochester, Spring 2016

Student Voice
Interested in what living with a host family is really like? Read Hojung Kim’s blog post, “Oh, Home.”