CAS '22 Bilaal Azeer

PGS: Travel to India

Program Abroad:

  • Penn Global Seminars (PGS): The City of New Delhi: New, Old, and Unmapped, Travel to India

Ask me about...

  • Traveling as an international student (this was my second time going abroad, the first being coming to the US)

  • Navigating cultural differences and social customs when you stand out as a traveler

  • Preparing for and understanding health considerations when traveling to India

My Experience Abroad:

The Global Seminar which took my class and me to Delhi was the first of its kind in that it was the first writing seminar at Penn which took the class abroad. The trip did not simply provide me with a deeper understanding of the culture and history of Delhi--and by extension, India--but it also enhanced what I was already learning in class in ways I could not imagine. Equipped with the readings which we did at Penn about the city, experiencing the vibrancy and splendor of Delhi was even more extraordinary with the foreknowledge of its intricacies. This is not to say that I was not surprised by all that India had to offer. The subtleties of a country so different from what I knew still left me perplexed; from the food to the organized chaos in its streets, India unmapped a plethora of questions which pushed me to open myself up to new horizons.

The trip contributed deeply to my research about Delhi's monuments through the 20th century and visiting said monuments during our travels allowed me to concretize my writing on the subject. I had only read about the inhabitations and changes undergone by those places during the 20th century but exploring them firsthand offered me a unique lens from which to understand how the political and social fluctuations of colonial and independent India influenced Delhi's physical past.

Other Highlights:

  • The biggest highlight of my trip was visiting the Itma-ud-Daula in Agra, also known as the 'Mini Taj'. It is a hidden gem in the former imperial city of the Mughals, bearing a close resemblance to the Taj, although less grand. It was a very peaceful experience for me to walk through the trimmed gardens of the place and sit in one of the crevices of its facade. The fact that it was a lesser-known monument but still stood as a remnant of the architectural feats of the Mughal made it even more enjoyable to me.

  • Walking through the organized chaos of the narrow alleyways of the Chandi Chowk market in Old Delhi, not knowing where the shops began and where they ended. This was an overwhelming immersion into the core of Delhi's rich commercial hub.

  • Riding a rickshaw in the streets of Delhi, with no doors on either side of the little yellow and green car.

  • Bargaining with street merchants when shopping in Delhi and getting up to 70% discount.

  • Seeing the Taj Mahal in the shades of sunrise.

On the Penn Abroad Blog:

Treasured Pasts and Landscapes