Nepal Semester: Himalayan Studies, 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: Orientation and Getting to Know Nepal Students arrive in Kathmandu after a long international flight. Instructors greet the group at the airport and together we travel to the village of Dhulikhel on the rim of Kathmandu Valley to begin our in-country orientation. Here we have time to rest and unwind and get settled through various orientation activities, discussions and explorations. Following our orientation we embark on our first 3-day trek on the rim of Kathmandu Valley, hiking through rural villages and continuing to get to know Nepal and one another.
Week 2-4: Urban Homestays in Kathmandu, Language Study, and ISPs Upon returning to Kathmandu, we begin our 4 week-long urban homestay in Nepal’s hustling, bustling capital city. During this time we have guest speakers and discussions on a variety of topics relating to Nepal’s culture and development. Using increasing language skills, we delve deeper into Nepali culture, spending time with host families and ISP mentors, bargaining at the local market, and independently exploring the city. The weekly schedule during this time is generally as follows: Monday through Friday there is breakfast at the program house, followed by Nepali language lessons, a guest speaker or an instructor or student-led discussion, and then lunch. Afternoons are dedicated to time Independent Study Projects (ISPs), where you dig deep into an aspect of the culture that most interests you. Weekends are dedicated to spending time with homestay families and student-led excursions to various places throughout the city. During this time we will wrap up ISP projects, prepare for our ISP presentations and host a gratitude party for our homestay families and ISP mentors. In addition, fall is festival time in Nepal and we will be lucky enough to experience one of Nepal’s most important festivals, Dashain – a nine-day celebration for the Hindu goddess Durga.
Week 5-6: Trek Through the Himalayas We leave the Kathmandu Valley to embark on a 2-week trek into the Himalayas, where we cross high mountain passes, explore villages and Nepali culture along the way, sleep in tents, and learn basic expedition and leadership skills.
Week 7: Mid-course Retreat We return from trek to celebrate our accomplishments in the mountains and reflect on the course thus far and set goals for the remaining time that we have. We prepare to settle into an entirely differently routine at the monastery.
Week 8: Buddhist Meditation Retreat We travel to Namo Buddha Monastery, a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery on the rim of Kathmandu Valley, were we will participate in a Tibetan Buddhist retreat. This is a unique opportunity to delve into a first hand experience of Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy, meditation and practice as well as experiencing monastic life.
Week 9-10: Rural Homestay in Ale Gaun, Learning Service, & Tihar Festival Celebration Following our retreat, we depart Kathmandu and travel west to our rural homestay village called Ale Gaun (the home of Ale family), located about three hours from Pokhara, Nepal’s second largest city. We will spend two weeks here, participating in everyday rural life, which may include early morning milking of buffaloes, harvesting fields and preparing dinner with our host families. At this time we will also be participating in a learning service project and learning about the damage that the village suffered in the 2015 earthquake. We will also celebrate another important festival called Tihar, the festival of lights, with our families!
Week 11: X-Phase From Ale Gaun, the students take the reins of the course and guide the group on an adventure that they have planned themselves. We call this expedition phase, or x-phase, when the students put the knowledge and skills they have learned to practice in a very hands-on way. Past groups have chosen to travel to Chitwan or Lumbini in the Terai region of Nepal or go on another short trek.
Week 12: Transference in Bandipur, Farewells in Kathmandu The final week is dedicated to reflecting on our journey thus far, celebrating our accomplishments and preparing for our journey home. We will spend a few days in the eco-village of Bandipur, where we will explore one of Nepal’s largest caves, enjoy beautiful mountain views and celebrate together! Returning to Kathmandu, we will have a chance to say our goodbyes to friends and homestay families before beginning the journey home.