Special to Mustang News
India is 8,290 miles away from California, nestled between Pakistan and Nepal. Someone who is not familiar with India might conjure up colorful visions of an exotic and foreign land teeming with life and cultural complexities.
Though not typically thought of as a study abroad destination, India has many lessons to teach Cal Poly students — in and out of the classroom.
With two new study abroad programs, “Business and Culture in India” and “Management and Culture in India,” being introduced this year, students will have the opportunity to get to know the real India while also earning college credit.
Cal Poly packaging program director and business administration professor Jay Singh is eager to embark on a four-week experiential business and culture course that’s distinctly tailored with a unique approach to learning.
“You go to a new company, it’s a new classroom,” he explained. “It’s not anything that I know Cal Poly or any other program is doing currently where the classroom changes three times a day on the road.”
The “Business and Culture in India” program includes a humanities and business administration course, “India: Culture, Traditions and Globalization” and “Indian Business Culture.” The humanities course will focus on various aspects of India’s culture, like spirituality, geography and history that heavily influence the country’s business operations.
Singh estimates that he will be visiting at least 20 companies throughout the course of the trip. During the graduate student study abroad programs that he has led in the past, visits have included Cisco, Google and IBM.
Singh said that learning about India’s unique business structure will further business students’ careers.
“You’ve got all these crazy things going on that would never be acceptable to our society, but these are the type of countries that will be dictating terms in a few decades,” he said. “I’m just exposing students to the human side of things. You could take all the business courses here at Cal Poly and never understand that aspect.”
While traveling from New Delhi to Agra, Mumbai, Pune and Bengaluru, students will have the option to further immerse themselves into the culture with visits to a yoga ashram, the opportunity to experience Mumbai’s nightlife, participate in cooking classes and visit open air street markets. Each city will also incorporate a guided tour along with a free day to wander and explore.
“We’ll be taking them to the Taj Mahal, some forts and factories and we’ll see things being made and constructed,” Singh said. “If they think they know Indian food, it’s going to be an eye-opener.”
Singh incorporates pre-departure sessions into his program to better prepare the students for the adventure ahead.
“We try to get them to learn about India as much as they can beforehand,” he said. “Then again, we can’t really prepare anyone for it. Even I get surprised when I go back there, even though I’ve been there so many times.”
Understanding different types of business and culture is critical for students, whether they are seeking degrees in business or not, Singh says.
“The exposure will bring a lot of meaning to whoever participates,” he said. “It’s not just a course. It’s also about learning about yourself, learning to adapt, learning to be understanding. And that’s the underlying theme throughout all of this.”
Another new and emerging Cal Poly study abroad opportunity in India is “Management and Culture in India,” led by international management professor Beena Khurana.
The courses within the program includes “Culture of India,” a humanities course and a business course titled “International and Cross-cultural management.” Classes are at the Indian School of Business, a premiere college within the country located in Hyderabad.
“I teach international management and cross-cultural relations, so taking a course like that in India is virtually like having a laboratory right around you,” she said. “It makes wonderful sense.”
She plans to begin in Hyderabad while making her way to Mohali. Along the way, students will have the opportunity to explore the culture of India through many varied and colorful assignments, like wearing traditional Indian clothing for a day and renting out an auditorium for a screening of a Bollywood film.
“One is never too old to become bicultural,” she explained. “The idea is that I am going to introduce you to a new culture and encourage you to embrace it. And you should come back a changed person.”
Excursions outside of the main city include a trip to the Taj Mahal in Agra and a trek to Amritsar’s Golden Temple. A visit to the Wagha Border of India and Pakistan for the changing of the guard will be a great learning experience for students.
“This really gives the students a good sense of history and a good sense of India’s colonial past,” she said.
While visiting the cities, Khurana scheduled tours to better acquaint the students with nearby temples, architectural monuments and markets.
Guest lectures are also planned with speakers discussing Indian literature, social movements and women’s issues in India. Visits to varying types of businesses and companies are also on the itinerary.
“You will see things that bother you,” she said. “On the other hand, you will also see things that really please you. It’s a country that speaks to your heart and you must be prepared to feel.”
Khurana says her goal is to make sure students come back from their trip with a widened perspective.
“One could first ask, ‘Why travel to India?’” she said. “India has become a progressively larger player on the global scene. It really behooves us to introduce India to Cal Poly students and that’s my objective.”
Khurana explains that her program is an effective way to gain bi-cultural experience, whether you are a business major or not, which is an attractive quality to employers.
“You might come back from India not having liked it, but you might come back having fallen in love with the place,” she said. “You will never know sitting here in San Luis Obispo.”