Indian Experience

Cultural Immersion activities for SIP students through IISAC

IISAC’S semester in India program offers students more than academics. Even before leaving the US, IISAC will acquaint you with important information regarding visa, flight reservation, health and safety, cultural integration, academic planning as well as travel preparation and logistics.


This portion of the orientation program typically includes a pre-travel booklet, email correspondence and a final phone discussion a week before departure

Immediately on arrival, IISAC offers an excellent in country orientation on India’s culture, environment, history, travel destinations in India as well as safety trips.

The orientation consists of structured modules which vary from cultural and historical information to practical knowledge.

The major discussion topics for the in-country orientation are as follows


Educational tour of Kerala

(Offered before the start of the semester)

“Spend a Semester in Kerala” comes with the added attraction of the exhilarating experience of enjoying the unspoiled beauty of nature along with cultural immersion activities to learn a new culture, its people and society before the start of each semester.

This 14 day free educational tour of Kerala organized by IISAC is a part of the program that allows the new batch of students to bond together and reduce their cultural shock before integrating with the university life.

Destinations and activities are carefully selected to activate the physical senses of the incoming U S students. The scenic tour locations include Kovalam, the world famous beach,Thiruvanathapuram, the capital of Kerala famous for museums, temples and art galleries, Kochi, nicknamed as “Queen of Arabian Sea” famous for colonial artifacts, Chinese fishing nets, and the first Jewish Synagogue of the Commonwealth, Moolamattam in Western Ghats for mountain climbing and hiking, Thekkady for the tropical rain forest and also to see herds of elephants and groups of monkeys. Munnar is famous for tea plantations and the highest mountain peak and finally Kumarakom for its pristine backwaters.

Cultural activities during the orientation tour

The extracurricular cultural programs of Semester India students at the University of Kerala

One of the most important features of the Semester in India program of IISAC is the well integrated extracurricular and co-curricular cultural programs to maximize SIP students’ cultural experiences in India through direct contact with the society.

Various cultural activities, jointly developed by the Kerala University and IISAC, provide you with a broader understanding of Indian culture.

The extracurricular cultural programs are developed and monitored by IISAC, while the co-curricular cultural programs are hosted by the University of Kerala. Together they will give an extra ordinary experience of India as a part of your semester study. The specially designed programs are summarized as follows:

Art of Living Class, Yoga and meditation

The Art of Living Class provides hands on experience from the first day of the semester. During these lectures, students are given a chance to practice yoga, meditation, and various breathing practices such as the Pranayama. Students are led through the practices by a classically trained guru who imparts the practices of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. In addition to that, the class offers lectures on living as an art form; giving students the chance to truly question their motives and ambitions.

Dance Classes and Performances

During the Semester in India, students are given numerous opportunities to practice and witness classical Indian dances. The 2 week tour in the beginning of the program introduces the dances to students through several pre-arranged shows. Following the tour, students are given the chance to learn dances from local Indian students. In addition to this, Study abroad participants are encouraged to engage in cultural exchange activities which take place throughout the university. Events such as talent shows, festivals, and international seminars are all common within the gates of the Kerala University.

The orientation tour just before the semester initiates the students to the rich, artistic heritage of Kerala, the classical dance- drama called ‘KATHAKALI’ and the traditional marital art of Kerala known as ‘KALARIPAYATU.’

Kathakali, the classical dance drama is unique to Kerala and is noted for its attractive makeup, elaborate costumes, detailed gestures , facial expressions, moods or rasas and well defined body movements. This dance drama is performed with the accompanying carnatic music and the complementary percussion instrument called ‘chenda’.

Kalaripayattu on the other hand is a Dravidan martial art form that the South Indian soldiers were trained from the 12th century onwards. The training was provided in ‘kalari’ (teaching place) where the trainees were introduced first to fight with bare arms and then progressed to the use of long sticks, draggers, swords and shields.

SIP students who are interested in receiving the training can enroll at CNV Kalari in Thiruvanathapuram city for this impressive martial art form of ‘Gods own country’.

Cultural Seminar at the University of Kerala.

The SIP program includes an ‘Intercultural Seminar’ at 400 levels. This provides the students a shared learning experience for discussing topics that interest them the most on Indian culture and the working of the Indian society.

The assignments in this course are intended to develop critical thinking skills and cultural intelligence. The writing assignments, discussions, reflection papers on Indian culture that each student experienced outside the classroom are intended to improve their observational and writing skills considerably.

As a part of this seminar course, students also listen to invited professors, cultural experts, authors, artists and diplomats in their areas of expertise.

Students also visit palaces and museums located in Thiruvanathapuram to expose them to challenging ideas, observations and interpretations.

At the end of the semester, students develop their own vision of the Indian society, culture, social changes and issues on ethics.

Music Concerts

The University also arranges music concerts for students to witness. Dr. Achuthsankar, program director of the Bio-Informatics department, spends his free time reciting Indian ragas with his band of 4 other members. When time permits, the group sings and performs for the students; giving them a unique look into the modern interpretation of ancient Indian musical expression:- Carnatic music

Visiting Indian Homes

Making friends at the University of Kerala is both easy and encouraging. Students of the university are eager to reach out to anyone willing to interact with them. Frequently students from the U.S. are invited to their friends’ homes to experience life in the subcontinent in a direct way. Activities within the homes include cooking lessons, temple excursions, and bathing in rivers and waterfalls. Visiting the local homes is an incredible experience that is sure to be unforgettable for any of those that choose to reach out and meet those that have been generous enough to welcome them.

Weekend getaways

Trivandrum and the surrounding areas provide a great chance for students to experience this exciting corner of India. Trivandrum itself is a bustling city, hosting a wide range of cultural activities. Festivals such as Pongala (a gathering which holds the Guinness Book of World Record’s award for the largest gathering of women on the planet), are common in the province’s capital. In addition, areas such as Kovalam and Poovar provide pristine beach getaways for weekends that aren’t spent traveling to other parts of the country. The mountainous part of Kerala, the Western Ghats, is at only one hour driving distance and is ideal for mountain climbing and hiking.

The nearness of the interstate train stations and domestic airport to the university campus makes the visit of south India easy and convenient. Such destinations include Kanyakumari (Cape Comerin) Ooty, Mysore, Bangalore, Madurai, Chennai, Mamalapurram, Pondicherry and a host of other Indian locations. Even overseas destinations like Srilanka, Maldives are only under 1 hour flying distance from Thiruvanathapuram.

Training in local language: Malayalam

Learning the language of the local people is essential to touch the soul of the culture. Eventhough, English is the only language needed to survive in India, learning of Malayalam has a lot of other advantages. They include; conversing with the local people, buying things from the local shop, getting respect from the locals and pronouncing local food names in the restaurant.

This language will also form the basis for learning south Indian classical dance and music forms. The introductory course in Malayalam, offered for semester India students is very popular for two major reasons for understanding the regional culture, and for satisfying the language requirement for the general education component of the home university.


Mid-semester break for cross country travel

IISAC’s semester India program provides one week break immediately after mid-semester exams to visit North India or any other destinations in India. Mid-semester break of 1 week is provided to all incoming students to experience India through special arrangements with the University. The mid-semester tour can be expected in the last week of March for spring semester students and last week of October for fall semester students.

IISAC offers a subsidized and guided tour to areas in North India including Delhi, Agra (Taj Mahal) and Jaipur at an extra cost of $ 500.

This is a 7 day specially designed travel program which takes the study abroad students to the major historical and archaeological sites in North India.

Click here to read experience of a group of SIP students from Kerala University

Independent travel

Semester India students are also encouraged to embark on independent travel of their own in Kerala and nearby states during the weekends.

IISAC will provide a list of recommended destinations suitable for your travel in India.

Some great locations are

Students can also use the opportunity of the slightly different semester end dates in India for further exploration of any part of India at a private level after the semester.

They can opt for a week to a one month Indian exploration tour of west India, north India and east India.

Some suggested destinations are

Bhubaneswar, Konark ,Puri
Kolkata, Darjeeling, Sikkim
Nepal, Kashmir, Ladak
Goa, Mumbai


IISAC believes that the any student enrolled at the University of Kerala should consider some sort of service learning during the semester or upon completion

The early semester end dates (May 10th for spring semester and Dec10th for fall semester) will give SIP students at least a month of legal time in India after their academic obligation to involve in service learning opportunities.

This period is ideal for considering the following modes of learning opportunities

IISAC can work with local communities, NGO, charities, cultural and educational institutions and multinational corporations to set up internships within the student’s area of interest.

For more information contact Prof.Sunny Luke at

IISAC also provides internship opportunities in its office in Kerala to gain career experience on non-profit management, educational administration, curriculum building, marketing, finance, e-commerce, visual arts and creative writing.

Click the link below for an experience of an IISAC intern and how it improved her career