India Semester: Himalayas to the Ganges River, Sample Itinerary

This is a sample itinerary. No two Dragons courses are the same. Every itinerary considers the unique strengths of the instructor team and interests of the student group.
WEEK 1: Travel to India & Orientation Our adventure begins as we touch down in India, and make our way to the region that we will call home for the coming months. We navigate windy roads into the Himalayan foothills by jeep, landing at a retreat center near Kalimpong. We spend the first several days amidst peaceful surroundings getting to know one another and being introduced to our new home.
WEEKS 2 - 4: Village-to-village walk, then into homestays Eager to explore our new surroundings, we set off for a 3-day walk from village-to-village, practicing basic Nepali greetings with the folks we encounter and starting to get a feel for the place and staying in small lodges along the way. After stretching our legs and exploring, we shift into our homestays in Kalimpong, where we spend about 3 weeks living and learning alongside our hosts, diving into independent study projects, language learning, and starting to explore the region’s complex history, politics, and environment with a variety of guest speakers and visits to local NGOs.
WEEK 5: Travel from Darjeeling into Sikkim Saying farewell to our host families, we shift further into the mountains with a stop in historic Darjeeling. We spend our time tasting varieties of the region’s renowned tea, meeting local scholars to learn about the central role this place played in India’s colonial past, and visiting the Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Center. From Darjeeling we shift further into the mountains, crossing into the state of Sikkim and spending time with the indigenous Lepcha community whose ancestors have called that sacred land home for generations upon generations. We learn about the Lepcha’s efforts to preserve their culture and environment in the face of threats from outside their region, including hydropower plants and language policies that undermine the preservation of the Lepcha language.
WEEK 6: Trekking! Moving deeper into the mountains, we head off on our trek into the high Himalayan mountains in the shadow of Mount Kanchenjunga, the world’s 3rd tallest peak. We spend about 8 days traveling through the mountains on foot, navigating rhododendron dense forests as we climb higher toward alpine lakes and spectacular panoramas of the high peaks.
WEEK 7: Monastery Stay We trade the tranquility of the mountains for the tranquility of a monastery in the heart of Sikkim, where we spend 5-6 days living alongside Buddhist monks and learning about Buddhist philosophy and meditation. We recalibrate to a slower rhythm alongside the chiming of bells and the spinning of prayer wheels.
WEEKS 8 - 9: Santiniketan Winding our way out of the foothills, we find our way to the heart of traditional Bengal in the cultural and musical hub of Santiniketan. Settling in with host families here, we learn first-hand alongside our host families, independent study mentors, and local professors. We experience Hindu and Muslim families living side-by-side, listen to traditional Sufi musicians, and expand our understanding of diverse Indian identities.
WEEKS 10 - 11: Travel to Kolkata/Sundarbans Heading into Kolkata, the bustling hub of Bengal, we witness the diversity of city life, from towering skyscrapers and wide-tree lined avenues to the very real difficulties faced by many who migrated from rural areas into the city looking for economic opportunities and a fresh start. From Kolkata we move further south, traveling by road and by ferry all the way to the Sundarbans, the UNESCO world heritage center and home to the famous Royal Bengal Tigers. As a gatekeeper for the Bay of Bengal, the Sundarban mangrove forest is incredibly ecologically important but also imminently threatened by climate change, rising ocean levels, and other environmental stressors. We explore this area by boat and on foot, learning about environmental pressures from the perspective of local communities and scientists who call the Sundarbans home.
WEEK 12: Expedition and Transference Using all the skills learned in the previous weeks, the students take the reins to plan their own adventure. In the final days of the course, the group settles into a slower rhythm once again for transference, a time to reflect on the adventures and learning and to intentionally consider how those lessons may be integrated into life back at home.