Mekong Semester

Tibetan Plateau to the Heart of Southeast Asia

A 3-Month Gap Year Program

Enroll
Duration
84 Days
Description

Examine issues of transboundary resource management within Southeast Asia’s largest river basin, explore diverse belief systems, and participate in community-driven learning service.

Spring Dates

Feb 7 - May 1, 2021


Spring Availability

open

Fall Dates

Sep 15 - Dec 6, 2020


Fall Availability

five spaces

Number of Participants

12


Suggested Ages

17-22

Spring Begins In

44 Weeks

Fall Begins In

23 Weeks

Land Cost

$15,410


Estimated Flight Cost

$1,945

Xishuangbana

Kunming

Luang Prabang

Vientiane

Bangkok

Kratie

Phnom Penh

Program Overview

FROM ITS SACRED HEADWATERS IN THE TIBETAN PLATEAU, THE MEKONG RIVER FLOWS 4,800 KM TOWARDS THE SOUTH CHINA SEA, CLEAVING A BOUNDARY BETWEEN MYANMAR, LAOS, AND THAILAND.


To Tibetans, the Upper Mekong is a powerful spiritual entity. To the Chinese, the river is a means of economic development. By focusing on the interdependence of people and the natural world, The Mekong Semester examines how the demand for electricity and anthropocentric needs are causing irreparable damage to delicate ecosystems and traditional ways of life.

PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS
  • Experience rural village life in a Tibetan, Lao, Thai and Cambodia homestays participating in the daily rhythms of each place.
  • Trek in arid Himalayas and humid wet tropics exploring hot springs, glaciers and waterfalls.
  • Meet with community members to learn about the reality of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, The Secret War and Pol Pot’s Regime.
  • Witness the negative impacts of large-scale hydro-power dam developments…

To Tibetans, the Upper Mekong is a powerful spiritual entity. To the Chinese, the river is a means of economic development. By focusing on the interdependence of people and the natural world, The Mekong Semester examines how the demand for electricity and anthropocentric needs are causing irreparable damage to delicate ecosystems and traditional ways of life.

PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS
  • Experience rural village life in a Tibetan, Lao, Thai and Cambodia homestays participating in the daily rhythms of each place.
  • Trek in arid Himalayas and humid wet tropics exploring hot springs, glaciers and waterfalls.
  • Meet with community members to learn about the reality of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, The Secret War and Pol Pot’s Regime.
  • Witness the negative impacts of large-scale hydro-power dam developments ecological systems.
  • Explore the diverse range of spiritual beliefs and religions within the Mekong catchment including: Tibetan Buddhism, Taoism, Theravada Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism, Animism, Catholicism and Islam.

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 and China’s impact on the cultural integrity and economic security of the Greater Mekong sub-region.

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 homestays 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 meet with NGOs in Phnom Penh and stay with communities living on the banks of the sacred river. A highlight of our time is the homestay situated on an island in the Bassac River where we settle into village life and work side-by-side with families, cooking together, sharing our stories and feeling what it’s like to live in rural Cambodia. Near the mouth of the Mekong Delta we conclude with reflections on the long-term health of the river ecosystem and bring our great journey to a close.

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
Homestay

Live with homestay families in southern China, a Catholic village on a tiny island in the Mekong in Laos, and a Khmer community just south of Phnom Penh.

1/5
Independent Study Project (ISP)

Learn traditional crafts such as bamboo weaving, embroidery, martial arts (Muay Lao), and traditional silk dying from master teachers in Laos' art and cultural hub, Luang Prabang. Explore your academic passions through mentored comparative studies on a topic such as: water rights, public health, education, gender etc. throughout program.

2/5
Language Study

Build proficiency (survival basics) in Mandarin, Lao, and Khmer languages, while exploring the linguistic traditions of ethnic minorities and the migration of three major language families.

5/5
Development Studies

Examine 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, including orphanage 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 homestays.

4/5
Rugged Travel

Hop on buses, trains, tuk-tuks, boats, minivans, 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

Multi-day and day treks in the foothills of the Himalayas in China and in the rainforests of Laos among waterfalls, elephant habitats and jungle paths sleeping in simples guest houses (village to village) or in supplied tents.