By Rishabh R. Jain, The Daily Iowan 
University of Iowa junior Jake Thomas wants his study-abroad experience to be different and out of the ordinary. The first place that popped up in his mind was a country several thousand miles away from his home — India.
The business major has a keen interest in understanding how business is conducted in India and bringing home some unique skills. He is eyeing the Social Entrepreneurship course in the UI India Winterim program.
“I just thought I should go and experience it in first perspective instead of having to hear about it from everyone else,” he said.
Many UI students like Thomas now crave an Indian study-abroad experience. In 2011, 131 UI students went to India and this year, 200 have applied so far, said India Winterim coordinator Rangaswamy Rajagopal.
While UI students have the option to study in India during the fall, summer, and winter semesters, the India Winterim Program is growing rapidly.
According to research Rajagopal conducted, the UI has a far higher number of programs offered in India during the winter, as compared with the U.S. News & World Report’s Top 50 U.S. Universities and other Big Ten Universities.
He said none of the universities analyzed offered more than three programs in India during the winter.
The UI India Winterim Program has grown from offering one course at its inception in 2005 to 13 courses being offered this year.
“India is still competing to become the most popular study-abroad destination at the university,” Rajagopal said. “We are still limping to get to the top and hopefully become No. 1 by next year.”
India was the third most popular destination for UI students last year, behind Italy and the United Kingdom.
UI senior Victoria Harding, a South Asian studies major, didn’t need a second reason to choose India as her study-abroad destination.
“One of the reasons why I wanted to be a South Asian studies major was so I could learn more before I went there,” said Harding, who enrolled in the 2011 Semester in South India program. “I really wanted to go somewhere that I won’t have an opportunity go to after college. Although, now that I did go there, I am sure I am going to go back.”
She added learning different languages in a country with a completely different system was the most beneficial aspect of her study abroad trip.
“I met people, both traveling with me, and people I met in India, who absolutely changed my life,” said UI senior and English major Kate Canter. “It revised my whole political outlook. I feel like because I went to India, I can live more in the moment and understand the world around me better.”
Canter, who also spent the entirety of her fall semester in India, said she had an exceptional learning experience about yoga while she was there. She wrote an essay titled “Yoga in Mysore,” which was published in the noah magazine this month.
The program fee for the Semester in South India was between $9,100 to $10,600 in this fall, and the India Winterim program will cost students between $2,700 to $3,200.
Joan Kjaer, the strategic communications officer at the UI Study Abroad office, said UI students can apply for need- and merit-based scholarships to study abroad. This totaled $560,000 last year.
Harding said she traveled around India by herself for a while — as a part of the three-week independent travel time the course entails — and was amazed by one phenomenon.
“Anywhere you go as a foreigner and speak a different language, people try to take advantage of you,” she said. “But I was amazed that every time that happened, there were 10 to 15 other people who were extremely helpful and took me under their wings.”