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India, Varanasi: The City, the River, the Sacred (Alliance)
Varanasi, India (Outgoing Program)
Program Terms: Academic Year,
Homepage: Click to visit
Program Dates & Deadlines: Click here to view
Restrictions: Elon applicants only
Budget Sheets Fall,
Fact Sheet:
Class Eligibility:
1-Sophomore and Above
Minimum GPA:
Language Prerequisite:
Language(s) of Instruction:
English and local language, Hindi, Urdu
Course Prerequisite(s):
Housing Options:
Internship Option:
Volunteer/Service Opportunities:
Max Credits To Receive/Transfer:
Program Advisor/Manager:
Shanna Van Beek
Program Description:

About the Location

India is home to nearly 1.2 billion people and is the world's largest democracy.  India continues to rise on the world stage and is becoming an economic superpower and a leader in technology.  Hindi is the most widely-spoken of India's 14 official languages, but English is the most important language for business, government, and political communications.  Located on the Ganges River in Uttar Pradesh, Varanasi is among the holiest of places for Hindus and is also home to a vibrant Muslim population and is located only a few miles away from Sarnath where the Buddha preached his first sermon.  Arguably the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, Varanasi is a dense, diverse urban center in a close symbiotic relationship with a river that can be simultaneously understood as pure and polluted.  A window into the ancient, spiritual, and cultural past of India, Varanasi is an example of the ways in which the ancient and modern coexist.


The Alliance for Global Education program in Varanasi allows students to examine the intersections between religious life, urban studies, and the environment in contemporary India. The program is based near Banaras Hindu University (BHU), one of India’s top research institutions. Founded in 1916, BHU has nearly 20,000 students, including 2,500 research scholars and 650 foreign students from across Asia and around the world. Many of the Alliance faculty members hold appointments within BHU’s various faculties and institutes. The semester curriculum consists of three required courses, Varanasi: City of Confluence (core class), a Hindi or Urdu Language course, and a 'Culture in Practice' field component.  Students choose two additional electives.  Coursework is complemented by cultural activities and excurions in and around Varanasi, as well as field visits elsewhere in India.

Grades count toward an Elon GPA.

Study abroad courses may not be taken on an audit or pass/fail basis, regardless of the host institution's policy.

To see course listings for this semester program, visit the program website.

Additional information about course equivalents for this program is available through the GEC website (Elon password required).

General Program Dates

Fall program – mid-August to mid-December
Spring semester – mid-January to mid-May


Students live with an Indian host and share a room with another Alliance student.  Students will take most meals in their homes, though there may be days when students will be required to eat out on their own.


Students must complete the online Elon University study abroad application by the published deadline.  See the Deadline and Events Calendar for the most up-to-date deadline information.  Applications are generally accepted one semester in advance.

Initial approval is granted by Elon, and final acceptance is granted by Alliance.


A successful semester abroad is dependent upon adequate preparation.  Students will participate in a series of mandatory orientations during the semester prior to studying abroad.  These orientations will address issues of academic, cultural, logistical, financial, and personal preparation, as well as health and safety.  Failure to participate in the required orientations will result in dismissal from the program.  Any financial losses incurred by this dismissal, including program fees and international airfare, are the student's full responsibility.

Click here for the semester programs pre-departure orientation schedule.

Scholarships/Travel Grants

Need-based scholarships are available for Elon semester programs through the GEC.  For additional information on scholarships or other funding for study abroad, see the Funding for Study Abroad page.

If you qualify for a travel grant through any of the fellows or scholars programs, see the appropriate program director for more information on how to apply the grant to your study abroad program.  Visit the Deadlines and Events Calendar for travel grant deadlines.

Students may apply for need-based scholarships for study in India for up to $6,000 for semester-length programs. Visit the Alliance site for more information.

Students who are interested in studying Hindi or Urdu may be eligible to apply for the Boren Scholarship. For more information on the Boren Scholarship, click here or contact the Boren Scholarship Advisor at Elon.

Additional Information and Links

Want to know more?  Like the Global Education Center Facebook page to chat with alumni and prospective students and receive study abroad updates.

Study Abroad Student Ambassadors (SASAs) are GEC student representatives who have participated in one or more study abroad programs, and have been trained to speak about their experiences. You can be in touch with current SASAs via email, or contact past study abroad participants who have attended your program. They are looking forward to hearing from you!

Embassy, Consulate, and Visa Resources

Indian Embassy in D.C.

U.S. Embassy in New Delhi

Newspapers and Journals

The Times of India
The Hindu
Manushi: A Journal about Women and Society
Journal of South Asia Women Studies
India Abroad
Indian Express

Change Agent
Study abroad has actually made me realize that I do not know specifically what I want to do with my life--and I'm ok with that. It has taught me that this is a big, big world with so many options. If I have learned anything this semester, it is to simply be open to possibilities.
     — Brianna Birchett, Spring 2015
Read what others have said about this program.
Dates / Deadlines:
Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Spring 2015 09/18/2014
Rolling Admission 01/19/2015 05/10/2015
Fall 2015 02/19/2015
Rolling Admission TBA TBA
Academic Year 2015-2016 02/19/2015
02/19/2015 TBA TBA
Spring 2016 09/17/2015 ** Rolling Admission TBA TBA
NOTE: Applications will be reviewed on a rolling and space-available basis within two weeks of submission.

The start dates and end dates listed reflect the dates students are expected to arrive in and depart from the host location and reflect the best information available to the Global Education Center. Please do not purchase plane tickets based on these dates. Individual programs will provide updates after your acceptance to the program.

Please view the Semester Deadlines page for more information.

** Indicates rolling admission application process. Applications will be reviewed on a space-available basis and applicants will be notified of their application status within two weeks of submission.

Indicates that deadline has passed