Frequently Asked Questions

Academics (courses of study)
1. If a student needs to be able to earn the equivalent of 18 semester hours – what could potential courses of study look like?
A typical set would be: an Anthropological and Religious Studies course—say, “Globalization & Local Narratives” (3); an Education course—say “The Child in India” (3), or a Political Science & History course—say “An Introduction” (3); a Gender Studies course—say “Each One Teach One” (3); a Music or Dance course (3 or 3 + 3); Hindi (3 or 3+3).

2. When do students select courses (prior to arrival or on-site)?
Prior to arrival. Online. With our guidance.

3. Are there courses taught consistently every year or does it change?
From the total of about fifty courses in our catalogue, some twenty are available every year.

4. What types of assessment/evaluation is there of students’ work?
There are weekly and bi-weekly assignments such as papers and book reviews; there are mid-terms and finals; there are final papers or performances or project reports; there are ethnographic journals in some cases.

5. Are there any syllabi or bibliographies?
Students will get syllabi at the beginning of classes by their teachers. The system is the same as in undergraduate college in the USA.

6. Is there an academic adviser or mentor on site?
There is a coordinator—academics.

7. Who teaches the courses?
The faculty listed. Some are currently professors in one of the three universities in Varanasi; some may be retired faculty; some may belong to an alternative field of study such as a Sanskrit pundit or Urdu maulana; others are free-lance scholars, artists or music maestros. The course may be team taught.

8. Where are the courses taught?
In the NIRMAN Centre Library; in the Centre classrooms; in the office of the professor; or in the studio or atelier of the arts professional.

9. What are the class sizes?
The lecture or discussion classes may range up to twenty, but are typically six or less, to follow our pedagogic policies. Tutorials are one to one. Trips may include more students together.

10. When do courses take place?
The schedule is given to the student at the beginning and posted on the soft board of the Centre. Courses meet be at different times, between 8.30 am and 7 pm, for 1.15 to 3 hours each.

11. Is there a course library? How do they access research materials?
There is a NIRMAN research centre library that always has one copy on reserve of all assigned materials. There is a NIRMAN store where books are available. Photocopies may be made at NIRMAN on payment, as at any photocopying place, and some books or materials may not be removed from campus.

12. What if the College requires students to take Hindi?
Hindi is typically compulsory for most internationalcollege students.

13. Is there a procedure for changing classes if something isn’t working out?
The student may petition, within up to three weeks of the beginning of the semester, but be in good standing when doing so, academically and otherwise.

1. Do we share rooms? Bathrooms? Have an AC?
You have a room in the NIRMAN guesthouse: single or double (by choice and occasionally, availability) with shared bathrooms and common spaces for relaxing, eating, practicing music and working. The guesthouse is a comfortable Indian building that impresses everyone with its aesthetics while providing safety, security and cleanliness. There are two central ACs in the guesthouse but no individual ones in separate rooms..

2. Is there a curfew? What type of security?
There are guards all the time for security. No stranger may enter without signing and getting permission, including students’ guests. Students must meet their guests in the NIRMAN room and take permission to bring them in to the guest house. Curfews are worked out according to student activities since some do take place late at night.

3. Who typically lives there?
At night: a manager and her family; two guards and their families; visitors in the guest house. In the daytime: the same campus is shared by up to 200 school children, youth, teachers, staff members of NIRMAN and participants in many activities.

4. Is there a house manager or a person specifically in charge of the residence?
There is a guesthouse manager.

5. Is there access to laundry and telephones?
Smaller clothes are washed on the premises by hand, upon a payment; the daily list is kept in a book by the maid. Bigger clothes are given to a professional launderer also on payment, once a week. There is a telephone in the guesthouse. Cell phones are rented out to short-term visitors by NIRMAN.

6. Is there internet?
The campus has wireless internet connectivity.

7. How are conflicts handled?
In all cases by the Manager and/or the Director in person.

Orientation, Services, and Policies
1. What types of materials are sent to students before the program?
Handouts explaining residential and academic procedures; descriptions of cultural codes; FAQ; readings on India written by NIRMAN faculty, other readings including anthropology, history, journalism and fiction.

2. On site, what sorts of topics are discussed? Anything focusing on gender issues?
On site, orientation includes the following topics: intro to India; to Varanasi; to Lanka and Nagwa; to NIRMAN. All topics have a gender focus.

3. Is there access to health services (in English?) and counseling services?
There are NIRMAN screened doctors for different purposes; names and addresses are provided to the students. There is a walk-in clinic and hospital five minutes away. There are no counseling services at present.

4. What information about moving around the city is made available?
This is part of the Varanasi and Lanka components of the orientation, and the student is guided the first few times to the classes when held outside campus.

5. Culture orientation – is there a discussion about local culture? Is this discussed throughout the program? Is someone available to mentor students through the process of culture shock and working through their individual values and assumptions?
‘Culture’ is a key component of the orientation. It is also key in every class throughout the semester. NIRMAN combines two things by making ‘culture shock’ understandable as ‘intellectual shock,’ and by teaching methodologies to think about another ‘culture’ vis-à-vis one’s own. The academic coordinator and manager are both available to resolve cultural questions and difficulties, as are the teachers outside of class.

6. What are the policies about the consequences of drinking and poor behavior and judgment?
No drinking is allowed on the NIRMAN premises. Special permission is given for a farewell party once a semester to each group of students, apart from a party hosted by NIRMAN, in which reasonable amounts of liquor may be served. “Poor behavior and judgment” at any time may result in the student being requested to withdraw from the program.

7. Who would be our contact prior to admission? Is this a change once the students arrive on site?
Prior to admission, the Director and the Manager. No, the contact people remain the same.

1. What is the process for determining an internship?
A student applies with a statement of purpose and other materials, such as c.v. and transcripts that may be already available to NIRMAN from the College Courses application. The internship is customised to fit the level of skills and aims of the student.

2. Does someone oversee the student in the placement?
The student has a mentor from the beginning to the end.

3. What are the language expectations?
Hindi is desirable but not compulsory. English suffices for many internship positions.

4. What are typical internships like?
A typical internship is 4, 10, or 20 hours a week (and even 40 if a full-time position). It has one or more of the following components and combines them in a way that suits the candidate: (i) Teaching: the intern teaches children and/or youth for 2 to 10 hours a week, either a specialized subject she is confident in, in the arts, sports, or sciences; or English. (ii) Administration: the intern works independently, while undergoing training, in a department of NIRMAN, such as the office, the library, the shop, the cafeteria, the research centre, the tailoring unit, or the farm; 2 to 10 hours a week. (iii) Research: the intern works on a research project of value to NIRMAN and of interest to herself, typically with a combination of primary and secondary research; 2 to 10 hours a week.

5. What happens if it is not working out?
We have a conversation on the subject. Either the student is taking it as a course for credit, in which case, she may withdraw and register for another; or it is a separate position, in which case the duties may be modified to resolve the problem.

Student life
1. Do students have access to local student clubs or other student organizations?
Yes. Every teacher will introduce his/her student(s) to the appropriate circle of young people: in music, social sciences, arts, respectively. The BHU professors will introduce them to BHU clubs and organizations.

2. Who would the students contact if they had questions that weren’t academic?
The Manager/Director of NIRMAN.

3. What kinds of students do well on this program? What types of students seem to struggle?
The students who do well are those who have a desire to do well, either by working hard and retaining their open-ness to learning the new, or by overcoming any shortcoming they feel they might have in coping. Students who seem to struggle have a previous history of shirking work. In both cases, the answer is the same as it would be at home.

4. How are discipline issues addressed? Have you ever sent a student home?
Students are talked to and reminded of the rules. No.

Risk management
1. Is there anything you advise students they should not do?
They should not carry a lot of money or credit cards and go alone to unknown places with unknown people. They should never leave the city or stay overnight away from campus without complete information. They should not knowingly disobey a professor or staff member re: codes in the city. They should not lose touch with NIRMAN no matter what they are doing.

2. Are students given emergency contact information? Do they have a 24 hour contact?