SITA gave me a chance to explore, understand, and fall in love with a culture completely different to what I’m used to. I will never forget my experience here and I hope to come back to India soon! I really recommend this program if you are looking for an opportunity to be fully immersed in Indian culture. You will have a great support system and you won’t ever regret your decision.  Bates student, 2011

Draw on the cultural and academic resources of Madurai through the SITA Center, located near two colleges.

South India Term Abroad students take classes at the SITA Center.  Located in a residential area, the SITA Center offers students a comfortable home-base and access to the cultural and academic resources of Madurai. It is adjacent to Lady Doak College (a women’s college) and near American College (co-ed college). Students can visit both campuses to attend events, use libraries, and meet with faculty and students. Faculty members from these, and other colleges and universities in Madurai, come to the SITA Center to hold classes. The two-building center houses classrooms, staff offices, a state-of-the-art library, a computer center, and social gathering spaces for students. Host families live an easy walk, auto, or bus ride from the Center. It is a 10 minute bus ride from the center of the city.

In addition to faculty members and your host families, there are many people who will help you prepare for your journey to Madurai and adjust to the cultural and academic demands of South India Term Abroad. Our staff members have remarkable travel, volunteer, and academic credentials in India and years of experience in study abroad. They understand the unique experience of studying and living in Madurai as a U.S. undergraduate student. They create a culturally supportive and intellectually challenging environment for you to thrive as a SITA student. As a cultural immersion and language study program, SITA has a core staff with exceptional academic qualifications.

Erin (PA) and Connie, staff trip to the mall, spring 2014

The U.S.-based EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DR. CONNIE ETTER, is responsible for overall program operations, manages the admission and pre-departure process, and oversees staff in Madurai. Connie holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Syracuse University, with Certificates in Advanced Study in South Asian Studies and Women’s Studies. Her dissertation research explored themes of belonging and community in a social rehabilitation shelter for women outside of patriarchal family structures in Madurai. Connie first visited South India as an undergraduate study abroad student in 2000. Since then, Madurai has become a second home. Before becoming SITA ED, Connie visited Madurai annually for research trips and Tamil language study. She lived in Madurai for over two years in 2007-2009. Connie joined South India Term Abroad in August 2010. She is currently based in Salt Lake City, UT and visits Madurai at least twice a year. In Utah, Connie enjoys road and mountain biking, snowboarding, running RAGNAR relays, camping, walks with Col (a border collie), and teaching Anthropology and Justice Studies courses at Westminster College. SITA site visits always include shopping for new clothes, bindis, and bangles, multiple meals at Murugan Idli, trips to see Tamil films with Ms. Nirmala, ridiculously hot treadmill running, and bowling at the local mall. Although this is a great position, her best job ever was working as a canoe guide for high school students in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota.


The RESIDENT DIRECTOR, DR. TED SAMUEL, manages program operations in India, teaches the ethnography course and supervises students’ field research projects, advises students on cultural adjustment, and assists students in integrating their personal experiences into an academic framework. Ted first traveled to Madurai in the 2003-2004 academic year as a student of the University of Wisconsin’s College Year in India program. During this timeframe, he extensively studied the Tamil language and Karagattam, a local folk dance that requires the performer to balance a brass pot on his head. He also began researching the social mobilization of Thirunangais, Tamil Nadu’s largest transgender community. Twelve years later, Ted still performs Karagattam, having made appearances in India, Pakistan, Nepal, and the US, and has continued researching the use of performance art in the Thirunangai social movement. Ted holds a BA in International Studies from Kenyon College and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Socio-cultural Anthropology from American University. In addition to his undergrad experience, Ted has come back to South Asia on several research grants and professional fellowships including a Fulbright Research fellowship in 2005-2006, an Advocacy Project Peace Fellowship (which took him to Kathmandu, Nepal for six months) in 2007, and an American India Foundation Clinton Fellowship in 2012-2013. Additionally, Ted has spent his past seven summers leading programs for Putney Student Travel in India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Rwanda, and Tanzania. Ted is so excited about his return to Madurai, where he hopes to share his love for all that is Tamil Nadu!




Dr. V, Dr. Arun, & Mischa (PA) at orientation in Thanjavur, spring 2012

The DEPUTY DIRECTOR, DR. ARUN RAJA SELVAN, is responsible for all program logistics and travel arrangements, faculty relations, and budget and finances. He is also SITA’s Tamil language professor. Dr. Arun earned a Ph.D. in Linguistics from Madurai Kamaraj University. His dissertation was entitled “Problems in Translating English into Tamil.” He has been with South India Term Abroad since 1993. During the summer of 2012, Dr. Arun is Tamil Professor at SASLI: South Asia Summer Language Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Ms. Nirmala in Mysore, spring 2014

The OUTREACH & OPERATIONS MANAGER, MS. NIRMALA CHRISTINA, is responsible for host family relations, student health and adjustment, and facilities and staff management at the SITA Center. Her first position with South India Term Abroad was librarian, when she had the huge task of organizing the  wonderful and large SITA book collection. She has been with South India Term Abroad since August 2008.