Mekong Semester

The Tibetan Plateau to the Heart of Southeast Asia

A 3-Month Gap Year Program

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Duration
83 Days
Description

Examine issues of transboundary resource management and international cooperation while traveling the length of the mighty Mekong River.

Spring Dates

Feb 7 - May 1, 2018


Spring Availability

accepting waitlist

Fall Dates

Sep 15 - Dec 6, 2018


Fall Availability

open

Number of Participants

12


Suggested Ages

17-22

Spring Begins In

3 Weeks

Fall Begins In

34 Weeks

Land Cost

$14,960


Estimated Flight Cost

$1,895

Xishuangbana

Kunming

Luang Prabang

Vientiane

Bangkok

Kratie

Phnom Penh

Program Overview

From its sacred headwaters on the Tibetan Plateau, the Mekong River flows 4,800km towards the South China Sea, cleaving a boundary between Myanmar, Laos and Thailand, and coursing into the heart of Southeast Asia.


The Mekong is an odyssey, a journey that pieces together the similar and disparate aspects of the region diverse, inspiring and misunderstood. On the Mekong semester, we explore three themes: Mind Like Water, Bombs and Bureaucracy, and Daily Rhythms. Focusing on development, religious diversity, economics, political history and village life, we follow the river for three months, learning its contours and secrets while meeting with locals who provide insight into nuances of specific communities and how they are related to those who share the river’s bank.

Our journey begins in China’s Yunnan Province where we trek through sacred Tibetan Buddhist landscapes and examine the impacts of China’s controversial mega-dam projects. In border villages, we explore transnational trade, ASEAN, and China’s impact on the cultural integrity and economic security of the Greater Mekong Subregion. We live with families in villages clinging to the gorges above the river, helping in the fields and discussing…

The Mekong is an odyssey, a journey that pieces together the similar and disparate aspects of the region diverse, inspiring and misunderstood. On the Mekong semester, we explore three themes: Mind Like Water, Bombs and Bureaucracy, and Daily Rhythms. Focusing on development, religious diversity, economics, political history and village life, we follow the river for three months, learning its contours and secrets while meeting with locals who provide insight into nuances of specific communities and how they are related to those who share the river’s bank.

Our journey begins in China’s Yunnan Province where we trek through sacred Tibetan Buddhist landscapes and examine the impacts of China’s controversial mega-dam projects. In border villages, we explore transnational trade, ASEAN, and China’s impact on the cultural integrity and economic security of the Greater Mekong Subregion. We live with families in villages clinging to the gorges above the river, helping in the fields and discussing life while sipping tea. We visit dams and national parks to witness the interplay between preservation and transformation. We study three languages and various spiritual traditions while traveling thousands of miles on the banks of the river connecting them all. Our time in China forces us to see how these traditions are surviving or struggling in the mad dash toward modernization.

Crossing into Laos, we explore the province of Luang Namtha on treks beneath the jungle canopy and travel through some of the most remote regions in Southeast Asia, where cross-border trade and a booming ecotourism industry are contributing to rapid modernization and environmental degradation. In Vientiane, we turn our focus towards public health initiatives, visiting an international NGO working to clear unexploded mines leftover from the US’ Secret War. We enter rural home-stays on the idyllic river island of Don Dohn,
relaxing into “Laos time” as we prepare for the final leg of our journey.

In Cambodia, we learn about the ancient Angkor empire and the tumultuous history of a region ravaged by war that is once again at the forefront of development work We meet with NGOs in Phnom Penh and stay with communities living on the banks of the sacred river. The highlight of our time in Cambodia, though, is the homestay. Situated on an island in the Bassac River, we settle into rural like and work side-by-side with families, cook together, share our stories and truly feel what it’s like to live as a local in Cambodia. On the coast of the Gulf of Thailand, we engage in a final learning service project focused on preserving farms from encroaching sea levels before taking a boat to a picturesque island to reflect on the social, political and ecological health of the river ecosystem and those who live along its banks.

Read More Read Less Sample Itinerary

Program Components

5/5
Comparative Religion

Gain insight into Tibetan, Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism, as well as the influence of animist traditions, Islam and Christianity in the Greater Mekong Subregion.

5/5
Focus Of Inquiry

Examine international water resources as relates to mega-dam projects, ecology and biodiversity, cultural ecology, economics, sustainable development, and regional politics.

3/5
Home Stay

Live with home-stay families in a Tibetan community in northwest Yunnan, a Catholic village on a tiny island in the Mekong in Laos, and an idyllic Khmer community just south of Phnom Penh.

3/5
Independent Study Project (ISP)

Explore your academic passions through mentored study of water rights, public health, the use of bamboo, comparative studies, leadership and student empowerment focus throughout program.

2/5
Language Study

Build proficiency in Kham Tibetan, Mandarin, Laos, and Khmer languages, while exploring the linguistic traditions of ethnic minorities and the migration of three major language families.

5/5
Development Studies

Examine comprehensively issues pertaining to international aid and development, the effects of damming on fisheries, wildlife conservation, minority status and forced relocation issues, effects of modernization on traditional livelihoods, and the impacts of tourism.

2/5
Learning Service

Acquire a more profound and nuanced understanding of complex social and development issues through community-based workshops and activities with organizations in Laos and Cambodia, and through the rhythms of daily life while in home-stays.

3/5
Rugged Travel

Hop on buses, trains, tuk-tuks, boats, trucks and your own two feet to explore the region overland -- from the high mountain passes of the Himalaya and the jungles of Laos to the temples of Cambodia.

3/5
Trekking

Trek in the foothills of the Himalaya (3 days) and in the rainforests of Laos among waterfalls, elephant habitats and jungle paths.

About Components
Other Programs in Laos, China or Cambodia
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