As a journalist, professor, and former TV anchor, Ujjwala Barve has always been a keen observer of Indian society, culture, and current events, as well as being actively involved in fostering international exchange. Now she’s bringing her passion for cross-cultural learning to US college students as director of ACM’s two study away programs based in Pune, India.
We asked her to tell us about her experience teaching and leading the ACM programs and why she thinks students should consider studying abroad in India. Here are her responses to our questions.
What is your favorite part about teaching and directing the ACM India program?
My favorite part as a teacher is meeting a new group of enthusiastic, energetic, and inquisitive students every six months and helping them unravel the enigma that India is. Helping students design their independent study projects during the fall semester and placing them with NGOs (non-governmental organizations) for internships during the spring semester also are exciting exercises.
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What wonderful and diverse interests the students have! Teaching Marathi, the language spoken in Pune, where the program is based, gives me the opportunity to interact with the students every day and have a lot of fun. I also like the challenge of keeping the content of Indian Media and Society — an elective course that I offer — as dynamic as the Indian media itself.
As director, planning the field visits is exciting, and accompanying the students on the visits refreshing. We all look forward to Fridays that take us to different places in and around the city.
When students first arrive in Pune, how do you introduce them to the city?
ACM has a connection with a well-known local college to identify and engage smart, energetic students to work as buddies/interpreters for ACM students. As soon as the term begins, each day two ACM students and one local buddy roam around in rickshaws (the three-wheeled, open taxi, which becomes students’ lifeline later). This “Explore Pune” exercise covers all parts of the city, and acquaints the students with major shopping areas, cafes, and interesting places. ACM students and their buddies often become good friends, and hang out together throughout the semester, as well.
Visiting a village during the spring India program.
What are the essential things a student should consider if they’re choosing between the fall and spring ACM India programs?
I would say that students who have decided to work in the development or development aid sector or are already involved in some NGO activities should consider the spring semester first. It gives students an opportunity to work closely with an NGO and carry out a project for the organization. During the spring program, students spend only a little time at the ACM center and work with the NGO for most of the day. Those wanting to explore more of India will also find the spring semester attractive because they have the choice to study in Jaipur, in northwestern India, for four weeks.
Fall semester is the best choice for students who have more diverse interests, such as pursuing an art, and if they would like to work on a topic of their own choice for independent study or continue their previous research in an Indian setting. In the fall, students also choose an elective course and enjoy the classroom atmosphere with the rest of the group.
Homestays with families and weekly field visits are integral parts of both semesters.
View of a street in Pune.
In your eyes, what makes India a valuable place to study abroad?
Apart from being an emerging economic power, India has a glorious history and is culturally rich and diverse. English is the official language of communication, and all classes are taught in English. Many people speak English in Pune, so cultural integration is relatively easy. At the same time, Marathi being the local language, students also get the opportunity to learn a new language.
In terms of academics, Pune is one of the best places to study. ACM can invite the top visiting faculty and research supervisors from several universities and research institutes with international reputations in the city.
For transportation, Pune is well connected to the rest of the country, allowing students to travel independently during short and long breaks.