A Dragons student looks out over a field of ancient pagodas at Bagan

Myanmar Semester

Traditions & Transitions

A 3-Month Gap Year Program

Enroll
Duration
83 Days
Description

Witness democracy in action: meet with international development experts and volunteer at the largest monastic school in Myanmar to gain insight into the country’s diversity and social transformation.

Spring Dates

Feb 7 - May 1, 2019


Spring Availability

closed

Fall Dates

Sep 15 - Dec 6, 2019


Fall Availability

open

Number of Participants

12


Suggested Ages

17-22

Spring Begins In

8 Weeks

Fall Begins In

40 Weeks

Land Cost

$13,245


Estimated Flight Cost

$2,160

Bagan

Mandalay

Kalaw

Yangon

Mawlamyine

Program Overview

IN MYANMAR, MEN STILL WEAR TRADITIONAL LONGYI AND WOMEN USE THE BARK OF THE THANAKA PLANT AS A NATURAL SUNSCREEN.


Students on this Myanmar semester program have the opportunity to explore a complex culture, greatly untouched by Western influences. Together, we explore themes related to cultural preservation, economic development, and political transition as they relate to the shifting faces of Myanmar.

We begin our voyage at the tranquil Shewdagon Pagoda, where Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi once asked the world to, “Please use your liberty to promote ours.” After soaking in the majesty of this Great Dagon Stupa, we hop on a train for to Bagan, the ancient temple complex in the north, for orientation. Here we begin lessons in introductory Burmese, Theravada Buddhist traditions, regional power structures, and the dazzling complexity of Myanmar’s ethnic, historical, and political landscape. We explore the stunning temple complex by bike and set goals and intentions for the journey surrounded by 10th century sculptures and spiritual centers.

The next few weeks find us visiting the…

Students on this Myanmar semester program have the opportunity to explore a complex culture, greatly untouched by Western influences. Together, we explore themes related to cultural preservation, economic development, and political transition as they relate to the shifting faces of Myanmar.

We begin our voyage at the tranquil Shewdagon Pagoda, where Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi once asked the world to, “Please use your liberty to promote ours.” After soaking in the majesty of this Great Dagon Stupa, we hop on a train for to Bagan, the ancient temple complex in the north, for orientation. Here we begin lessons in introductory Burmese, Theravada Buddhist traditions, regional power structures, and the dazzling complexity of Myanmar’s ethnic, historical, and political landscape. We explore the stunning temple complex by bike and set goals and intentions for the journey surrounded by 10th century sculptures and spiritual centers.

The next few weeks find us visiting the great Mount Popa for a short trek and making our way to the Shan Hills to live with ethnic Danu and Palaung families in the highland idylls of the Shan State. While in homestays, we work in the fields, help out around the house, practice our burgeoning Burmese language skills and learn about agricultural systems in the country’s bread basket.

From the Shan Hills we trek through the stunning rice paddies and forests toward Inle Lake. Inle offers a wealth of opportunity to explore the stilted communities lining the shores and discuss the environmental impact of development and tourism in the region. With fishermen and environmental activists, we gain insight into the changes that have taken place since the political transition put Myanmar in the crosshairs of foreign investors from China to the US.

Upon leaving Inle Lake, we make our way to Mandalay where students spend five weeks living and learning at the largest monastic school in the country. Here we continue our focus on learning service by volunteering in small groups according to interest paired with Burmese students to foster meaningful exchange.  We hike to mountain-top temples and visit the sleepy colonial town of Pyin Oo Lwin to reflect on the first half the trip and reset goals for the next phase.

We make our way to the gorgeous, mysterious mountains of Chin State. Here in this intensely Christian enclave, students trek from village-to-village, staying in community centers and connecting with locals who rarely see outsiders. We bring our own food due to the lack of abundance in the area, a tangible way in which we learn about food security in a country whose economic inequality reflects its unique political history and the legacies of recent autonomous struggles.

As we descend into the Irrawaddy basin once again, students spend a week of the course directing their own travels, into the Irrawaddy Delta, the Karen state or the bizarre newly-established capital of Naypyidaw. The empty streets and lack of infrastructure highlights the ways in which the ex-military junta’s heavy-handed approach to governance excluded the majority of the populace for generations, serving its own needs.

We conclude the Myanmar phase of the course in Yangon, where we see the country through the eyes of merchants, entrepreneurs, and young activists who aim to redefine the way the word sees their country. The remnants of Myanmar’s colonial history are on display in ways that leave one feeling the great excitement of the recent democratization movement, as well as the great challenges facing the new government as they push toward modernization.

We snake our way into the Mon state and Mawlamyine, 19th century colonial capital, taking time to say goodbye to the country in one of George Orwell’s old haunts. From the coastal city, we climb aboard a bus and make our way into the thick forest to the Thai border. Here we begin a comparative analysis of Myanmar and it’s closest neighbor.

Economics, politics, historical realties, and geography all come into play as we begin considering how to integrate the lessons learned into our lives. Over the course of three months, students on our Myanmar Semester build core competencies as global citizens and discover community-led models for societal change.

Read More Read Less Sample Itinerary

Program Components

5/5
Comparative Religion

Buddhist and Animist communities. Meditation Study.

5/5
Development Studies

Comprehensive examination of international development issues, complexities of globalization, effects of modernization on traditional livelihoods, minority status and cultural preservation, creative grassroots solutions to global problems.

5/5
Focus Of Inquiry

Community based development, social justice, conservation, and human rights.

2/5
Homestay

Staying with local rural communities while trekking in Shan state and the Mandalay state dry zone.

2/5
Independent Study Project (ISP)

Interviews and research on a myriad of topics in rural and urban areas.

2/5
Language Study

Basic Burmese language.

3/5
Learning Service

Partner with a local Monastic school, learn adobe building, rural development projects, education and literacy NGOs.

3/5
Rugged Travel

Buses, trains, ox-carts, boats, and tri-shaws.

2/5
Trekking

3-4 day trek in Shan State, 3-4 day trek in Kayah State.