Today was orientation. This was thrilling: finally finding out more about where I’ll be spending the next five months. Considering we had arrived on campus in the middle of the night, I really had no idea what to expect. The University of Hyderabad has a vast campus, stretching over 2,300 acres. There are 4 lakes, 500,000 trees (curious as to who counted this), 40 kinds of snakes, and 120 types of birds. For comparison, The University of South Carolina’s campus is only 444 acres- roughly one fifth the size of this campus! However, there are only about 5,000 students here, and most are pursing their Master’s or PhD.
The whole system of schooling is different here. A bachelor’s degree is typically only three years, and then a Master’s degree is an additional two. For classes, there is no add/drop date that we are used to in the States; at the beginning of each semester, there is a 10 day “shopping period” in which students can attend any class they would like to see what they’re really interested in. Students are also assigned a “cohort,” and take all their classes together. For example, the cohort would go from Biology to Chemistry together one day, then English and Social Studies together the next day.
The program I’m in is called the “Study In India Program,” and it has been offered by this university since 1998. There are several study abroad groups all here and studying in the SIP program. For the fall semester, we have one student who is doing an independent study, and about 20 students from other programs. We are all living in TIH together, along with some students from Norway, Sweden and Finland, who are here doing a summer version of SIP and leave in a few weeks.
In terms of classes, there is no “master schedule” like they have in the States, and there is for the most part just one time slot for each particular class. This has been a huge cause for frustration, as a lot of the classes overlap and figuring out our schedule has been a bit tricky. As SIP students, we’re required to take at least one class from the SIP program (I’m taking Basic Hindi and Ayurveda), and then we can choose from a selection of regular university classes to build a schedule to our liking (I am hopefully taking Health and Nutrition and Foundations of Health Psychology). Everyone here is from a variety of majors (social work, political science, global studies, mathematics, and telecommunications to name a few) and places.
After orientation, they took us on a bus tour of the campus. We saw the library and the gym, and all the classroom buildings, though it was a little confusing to keep it all straight. Bethany and I are planning to run to the gym tomorrow morning to try to gain a better sense of direction, and we’ll hopefully have free time later this weekend to determine where our classes are!
This evening, we experienced both the first rain in Hyderabad and our first blackout. It started raining around 5pm and all the electricity cut out soon after that. It had been hot today- probably in the upper 90’s. Everyone had migrated to the common room (the only room with wifi, which miraculously remained on), so the room quickly grew stuffy. While we had the doors and windows open, going outside wasn’t really an option, as it was raining cats and dogs, so it is incredibly hot. As in, sitting here, typing this, I feel like I just ran six miles at noon in August. I think accepting the fact that I’ll just be covered in a layer of sweat at nearly all times is probably going to be a necessary recognition. We’ll all look dewey- that sounds better than glistening or dripping (only slight exaggerations).
While this blackout is frustrating, it is also enlightening: we are so conditioned to life in an environment that is constantly maintained to keep us comfortable. I think this semester will be a learning experience in a lot of ways.