A four-week study abroad trip to India gave 11 College of Communication Arts and Sciences students a whole new view of the world as well as a number of life-changing experiences.
From crazy drives around mountains and busy streets to eating spicy food and meeting new people, the students were transformed by MSU’s first-ever production-based study abroad in India – Beyond Bollywood: Taste of Indian Media – offered for the first time last summer and led by Amol Pavangadkar, Senior Producer and Outreach Specialist with the Department of Media and Information.
“Though we could be told in a classroom setting that India has many different states that have vastly separate mentalities, languages and customs,” explained Katie Zurburg, media and information major, “I don’t think that fact would have sunken in as deep as it had while I was in there. Being in India allowed me to be immersed in the different cultures and experience the differences first hand.”
The goal of the study abroad program, which ran from May 19 to June 17, was to orient students to the media environment in India, give them experience working on a live production location, train them to be team players, and give them a solid foundation to be appreciative and respectful of other cultures.
“Each day trip and city visit showed how diverse India is,” said Summer Ballentine, media and information major. “We also learned that media has both the burden and the joy of catering to almost as many audience markets as there are street markets in Pune.”
A highlight of the trip was visiting Ramoji Film City (RFC), the biggest film studio complex in the world, where the group met Ramoji Rao, RFC founder and head of the Ramoji Group.
“The stay at RFC was easily the most rewarding production experience for the students,” Pavangadkar said. “Earlier in the trip, they got a chance to interact with and learn from world-renowned media experts and later on produced multiple media projects using high-end production equipment and professional resources.”
The students also visited Pune, New Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad, as well as various studios including the national news channel P7 and the Film and Television Institute of India, all the while attending lectures, a cricket game (Hyderabad vs. Bangalore), a traditional Indian wedding, museums and many historical sites.
With Pavangadkar as a guide, students gained production experience while developing their understanding of cultures and exploring the creative world.
“I wanted to expose (the students) to the reality of this industry along with the news, entertainment, television and other media outlets in India,” said Pavangadkar, who has 18 years of media production experience, a third of which have been in the locations visited on the study abroad trip.
The combination of lectures and spices in the air with thousands of people coming here and there, allowed the students to challenge their own worldview.
“As a student in a foreign land, I was constantly comparing what I learned about India to what I know to be true in America,” said Andrew Orlando, media and information major. “The idea of regional media instantly captured me. America has regional media in as much as we have small town newspapers and local television stations, the difference would be whether or not regional entertainment media could be plausible in America.”
During the trip, the students drew upon their experiences in India to script and produce their own Bollywood movie, “A Connection.” The film premiered at the Communication Arts and Sciences Building in October. Also featured during the premiere was a Bollywood-style dance sequence video produced by the students as well as behind-the-scenes videos showcasing the adventures of the trip.
This year’s Beyond Bollywood: Taste of Indian Media study abroad takes place July 7-Aug. 5. Students who want to gain more production experience can stay an additional two weeks working on a live production set at Ramoji Film City.
The Bollywood Dance
Beyond Bollywood Presents: "A Connection"
Behind the Scenes of the Trip