Exchange students who opt for hostel living are generally placed in the International Student House (ISH) if they are male, and the International Student Hostel for Women (ISHW) if they are female. There is always far more demand than rooms available in the DU hostel system, so the university is unable to guarantee students a place. The office of the Dean of International Relations, however, does reserve a number of seats for exchange students. During my stint at the University of Delhi, all exchanged students who have applied for a room in the hostel were offered one. The likelihood of securing university lodging for exchange students is therefore much better than it appears from the distance.
The pros: What’s brilliant about hostels?
#1 Prices for housing in hostels are unbeatable. For the 2012-2013 year, rent at the ISH stood at roughly 3200 Rs. per month. This price includes: i) three meals a day with vegetarian and non-vegetarian options, ii) electricity, iii) water charges and iv) Wi-Fi. The charges are slightly higher at the ISHW. Even with the admission fee and the 5000 Rs. refundable deposit, rooms are a real bargain.
#2 The ISH and ISHW both have single occupancy rooms only, so you do get your own space. Bathrooms facilities are shared, but showers are individual as opposed to common, which gives residents a sufficient amount of privacy.
#3 Location is a huge plus because it keeps commuting time to a minimum. The ISH is located on the North Campus, a three minutes walking distance from Vishwavidyalaya metro station and a maximum of 15 minutes walking distance from colleges. Such distance can be covered faster by taking a cycle-rickshaw for 15 to 30 rupees. See the location of the International Student House here. The ISHW is located in Indira Vihar, a sub-part of a neighbourhood called Mukherjee Nagar. A convenient private bus runs during the daytime to take students to their college during the daytime. Alternatively, a cycle-rickshaw can be hired and will allow residents to reach colleges within 10 to 15 minutes. G.T.B. Nagar metro station is easily accessible by boarding any of the small white vans that run continuously and take a mere 5 rupees for this 3 minutes ride.
#4 It’s all-inclusive! You do not have to worry about getting access to electricity, water or the Internet – all of that is taken care of for you. In a land with a gargantuan bureaucracy, not having to handle utilities is a huge time and energy saver. Not having to cook is what Indian students unanimously say is the biggest perk about hostel life. My experience with the food at the ISH was positive, overall: it is filling and prepared in a hygienic manner. Dinners are excellent, especially when it’s tandoori chicken day. The meal cycle gets repeated every week so meals can get somewhat repetitive, but heck given how cheap it is you can eat out several times a week without breaking the bank! Word of caution to the ladies, my friends at the ISHW routinely complain about meat servings being tiny and food being not nearly as great as what the boys are served at the ISH.
#5 You’ll meet other students who are stoked to discover India! Most local students are not nearly as keen to explore the four corners of the country as foreign students are. Other international students can be great travel buddies to roam around the sub-continent with on weekends… and even weekdays!
The cons: What’s not so great about hostels…
#1 The application process could win international prizes for how tedious it is. The list that is coming next may seem terrifying, but I promise you’ll be able to manage it. From the distance, it seems frightening, but once you get here you realize it is actually doable. Proof, every student residing in a DU hostel has gone through it. Here’s what the process looks like:
- Fill the application form: you have to procure it at your prospective hostel’s office for a fee of 50 rupees. Fill it in and get it signed stamped and signed by your principal’s office.
- Go on a quest for the myriad of supporting documents they require:
- Letter of no dues from your last DU hostel (ask that hostel’s administrative office for it)
- A letter by your home university attesting of your good character (I know, quite funny!)
- An HIV test report (that one blew my mind! You can get rapid-testing done for free at the W.U.S. Health Centre on Chhatra Marg, right on campus!)
- A transcript from your home university (a copy printed off from the Internet did the trick for me)
- A bonafide certificate from your college (basically a letter you get from your college’s administrative office that certifies you actually are a current DU student. The affiliation letter from the Dean of International Relations’ office is not sufficient for that purpose)
- A tuition fee receipt (if your home university has a reciprocal exchange agreement with DU that exempts you from paying tuition, get a letter from your DU college that explains so)
- A photocopy of your passport and visa for India
- Your registration certificate from the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (FRRO)
- Four to six passport photographs
- Note: do cross verify this list by reading the application form and the letter that calls for applications carefully (displayed in the hostel you are applying to) since required documents do change once in a while.
- Submit your application package to the hostel’s office.
- Submit your application package to the hostel’s office.
- Monitor the results to find out who is called for an interview. They will be displayed by your hostel’s office.
- Show up to your interview, which really is just a verification of your original FRRO and passport, along with a validation of the dates you want to stay at the hostel.
- Monitor the results of the interview process for a confirmation that you have been offered admission to the hostel. Again, these results will be displayed by your hostel’s office.
- Submit an affidavit to the office (it is a form that serves as an oath to the High Court of India, certifying that you will not engage in ragging). Mr. Kumar of the ISH generally buys them in bulk and resells them to you at cost. Ladies aiming for the ISHW may have to go to the court for the poor in Mukherjee Nagar to buy the said form. The document requires the signature of your parents, who obviously are not in India. In most cases, you can negotiate with the hostel office staff for them to accept your college principal’s signature in place of that of your parents. Do press for that!
- Pay admission fees and three months’ dues for room and boarding.
- Buy a lock for your room.
- Proudly take possession of your room and yell VICTORY at the top of your lungs!
If it sounds like hell, it’s because it kind of is! But again, I cannot stress enough that you shouldn’t let that deter you from applying. It does require about 3 to 4 weeks to complete the process, but it is totally worth it in the end. Temporary accommodation will likely be available to you for the entire duration of this process, so you are not homeless during that period. Despite how tedious the process is, I realized that was the easy route; it really is simpler than going to find a flat on your own.
#2 The cleanliness of the rooms varies widely. My friend’s room needed a mere three hours of cleaning to make it spick and span. But mine was in a rachskamble state, beyond the point of redemption by cleaning alone. I asked the hostel’s warden to have the room whitewashed (completely repainted), but he said all rooms on premise would be repainted the following month.
Having spent some time in India before that incident, I knew this was code for “your room is going to stay exactly like this, kiddo. We are not going to do anything about it in a month, nor in a year’s time!”. I went to Kingsway Camp, a shopping strip close the ISH, and hired a painter to completely fix the room and repaint it for 2000 Rs., including all supplies. He did a neat job, but I received a letter from the office saying I was not allowed to do that and had to explain my behaviour within three days or face sanctions. I wrote a letter explaining I have allergies and that living in a dusty place would cause me serious health problems. That did the trick! I never heard back from them about this “serious offence” 😉
Two points worth noting on the topic of cleanliness: firstly, private accommodations will not necessarily come in a better condition than hostel rooms. Secondly, the ISHW is a far newer building than the ISH so its rooms are far cleaner.
#3 Hostels are located away from Delhi’s action. Most of New Delhi’s exciting restaurants, bars and clubs are located in the southern part of the city, whereas the hostels are in the north. These spots, however, are accessible through the Delhi metro, by auto-rickshaw or by taxi, which are all very affordable by Western standards.
#4 You will have to comply to a few hostel restrictions. Personally, I have found that the only hard and fast rule at the ISH is that no women are allowed to stay on site after 9 PM. Virtually everything else will fly (including drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes). Rules at the ISHW, however, are somewhat more stringent with a 10 PM curfew being in force (this does not refer to bed time, but to the time by which one must have returned to the hostel). To enhance ladies’ freedom, residents of the ISHW can sign 12 “nights out” every month, which allows them to return to the hostel whenever they please, or not to come back at all that night if they so wish. On the whole, my Western female friends have not found this curfew to be a problem given the large number of nights out available. Male students at the ISH are not bound by a curfew.
In a nutshell, that’s what you need to know about living in a hostel as an exchange student at Delhi University. The next page, which will be available tomorrow, covers what it’s like to get a private flat for yourself.
Read on “Finding a Flat While at DU”.