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The "study" tour

Posted on: Mar 27, 2013

One other thing that makes me happy about choosing architecture as a profession is that fact that we have "study" tours. They are compulsory, a part of the syllabus. There is no way to avoid them. And they are the most fun we can ever have during college! The study tours are intended to be a way to go around the country and experience architecture. After all, classrooms can only get you so far. The whole tour is like a college sanctioned vacation. Of course, there is the work but that seems negligible compared to the amount of fun people have with their friends. For the first time, after a long time, the first thing someone thinks about is NOT a submission. That feeling, in itself, is a reward. And you also get to see some fun sides of the faculty too. You start seeing them more than just professors. All in all, it's basically where everyone starts to get to know each other more closely.

It all starts with the train journey. Most places we visit are two to three days out. The train journey itself is like the icebreaker for everyone. No matter the seating arrangement, everyone is constantly moving about. Once the seats are allotted, the only thing people do is keep their bags there and secure them. And after that they might come back only once the train pulls in at the station. During this time, there are a lot of things happening simultaneously in many locations. There's a high stakes card game going on in one compartment while there is a charades tournament going on in some other part of the train. Even the storytelling sessions going on here are quite interesting. There is no official lunch or dinner time, everyone eats all the time. Since this is the first time many people are travelling, their parents enthusiastically pack a lot of food with all the other things. By the end, everyone gets down at the station with considerably lighter bags.

The hotels we stay at aren't exactly five-star but they are quite decent. There are always certain standards. After the initial displeasure, everyone settles down and the faculty lets us in on the plan. We generally reach the destination sometime in the morning or afternoon, so there is always something planned. The study tour itself is generally planned based on our portion of history. The monuments that we experience are generally the ones that we study about. That way we can understand things better. There is a slight difference between going somewhere as part of a study tour and going there as tourists. We need to spend more time at the locations, for one, but there are also other aspects to it. Since we tend to develop a different way of looking at stuff, there are a lot of questions that come to mind about the different aspects of the design and construction of the monuments. We start to appreciate the complexity and the ingenuity of the people who built them. We are told the underlying story behind some of the details from an architect's perspective and the mythological or folk explanations. It's fun to see the faculty cutting off the tour guide to tell us that some of the things he's telling us are not true. And it's even more awesome to see his expression after that.

Most of our days are divided into two destinations. We need to get up early in the morning (which is nearly always impossible) and have breakfast. Once that's taken care of, we get in the bus, which takes us to our first destination. We are there until lunchtime, after which they take us back to the hotel if it's possible, or tell us to go have lunch on our own somewhere and give us a rendezvous point and time. The second half of the day goes at another destination. In the evening we return to the hotel and are then free to do whatever we want. We can even go out after taking permission from the faculty. Sometimes, the destinations we go to are quite big and not really possible to cover in just half a day. In that case, we stay there for the whole day and even take lunch with us. At these destinations, we are shown many things and told about many more. They can range from architectural design, to humanities, to where the contractor made a mistake while making something. It just goes to show the humongous scope of architecture! It's an awesome feeling to understand some of the stories behind the construction of monuments. As a tourist, we never really go in-depth with anything (it's very rare to find tourists interested in understanding history the way it happened, most just want to be in awe). Most days proceed in this manner.

In the evenings, we are sometimes taken to the market streets. I have never really understood the urge of buying something wherever you go. It's not even authentic most of the time. But people are suckers for souvenirs it seems (I spend most of my money on food). After that, everyone returns to the hotel for dinner. Everyone is allotted rooms, but it's more or less impossible for you to find them there (like the train).

The study tour opens up most of the people in class. Like I said, it's the first actual icebreaker for us. It's possible for anyone to notice the difference between a class who comes back from a tour and one that's yet to have one. And the changes are what keep the class together through architectural education.

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