India Semester

Himalayas to the Ganges River

A 3-Month Gap Year Program

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Duration
83 Days
Description

Immerse yourself in the rich fabric of Indian life: trek through the Himalayas, redefine family, and gain insight into India’s vast diversity of people, cultures, and landscapes.

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

$14,480


Estimated Flight Cost

$1,995

New Delhi

Kolkata

Kalimpong

Gangtok

Santiniketan

The Sundarbans

Program Overview

Experience the diversity of 21st century India from the mountains to the plains.


From the expanse of the Gangetic Plains to the highest peaks of the Himalayas, our India semester offers students insight into India’s vast diversity of people, cultures, and landscapes. The program begins in Kalimpong, a town surrounded by verdant tea fields in the rolling Himalayan foothills. Students settle into homestays, spending their days learning from local teachers, businessmen, and community leaders and taking up apprenticeships with artists, musicians, healers, and cultivators. By living with and learning from communities which practice Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism, and types of shamanism, students get deep insight into the religious practices and traditions that shape the beliefs of their hosts. Visiting Darjeeling, we engage with India’s rich and complicated past, learning about the political movements for statehood among the Nepali population that has been established there since colonial days. We also visit the Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Centre,…

From the expanse of the Gangetic Plains to the highest peaks of the Himalayas, our India semester offers students insight into India’s vast diversity of people, cultures, and landscapes. The program begins in Kalimpong, a town surrounded by verdant tea fields in the rolling Himalayan foothills. Students settle into homestays, spending their days learning from local teachers, businessmen, and community leaders and taking up apprenticeships with artists, musicians, healers, and cultivators. By living with and learning from communities which practice Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism, and types of shamanism, students get deep insight into the religious practices and traditions that shape the beliefs of their hosts. Visiting Darjeeling, we engage with India’s rich and complicated past, learning about the political movements for statehood among the Nepali population that has been established there since colonial days. We also visit the Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Centre, which has offered refuge and livelihoods to the exiled Tibetan community since 1959.

Traveling north to the ancient Himalayan Buddhist kingdom of Sikkim, students settle into a group stay with the indigenous Lepcha community, learning about their land’s fragile ecosystem, traditional plants, farming alongside family members, going on day hikes through lush forests, and listening to folk tales in the evenings. The group embarks on a trek with majestic views of the south face of mighty Kanchenjunga, the world’s 3rd tallest peak. Off the trail, the group settles into a retreat at a local Tibetan Buddhist monastery, gaining insight into Buddhist philosophy and learning meditation techniques.

An overnight train brings us out of the mountains and into the plains. We spend two weeks in the rural town of Santiniketan, located in the heart of southern Bengal’s agricultural expanse and known for its rich culture, artistic heritage, and indigenous traditions. Venturing into the surrounding rice paddies and forests to farm and explore, we witness the community’s dependence on the land and hear first-hand how changing and weather patterns have affected harvests. We stay with Hindu and Muslim families living and practicing their religions side-by-side. Hindu festivals and daily puja punctuate the days and weeks with prayer, celebration, and song; Baul musicians strum single-stringed ektara to accompany Sufi Muslim folk songs, accompanied by harmonium and a variety of local percussion, late into the evening.

We travel south by ferry into the Sundarbans National Park, a labyrinthine mangrove forest that connects the Brahmaputra and Ganges Rivers with the Bay of Bengal. Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its unique ecosystem, but heavily affected by climate change and rising sea levels, the Sundarbans offer deep insight into the themes of conservation, human ecology, and resource management. Conversations with the communities living on the fringes of the forest allow us to hear personal stories which highlight the tension between humans and nature and identify the compelling factors behind urban migration.

A visit to Kolkata, India’s colonial capital, offers a contrast and glimpse into another of India’s myriad facets. Strolling along the city’s wide-tree lined avenues and watching pick-up cricket games in the city’s expansive parks, we get a unique insight into cosmopolitan Indian life. According to the group’s interests,  we will have the option to embark on a student led trip to explore places such as Varanasi, Bodhgaya, Rajasthan, or neighboring states Assam or Meghalaya. The program shifts back to the tranquility of the Himalayan foothills for its final days, offering a peaceful environment to process and reflect on the journey.

Read More Read Less Sample Itinerary

Student Profile

if taking Courses for-credit

Students participating on the India Gap semester may choose to take courses for-credit. Those who enroll in these optional courses will be invoiced additional fees on top of the land cost, as noted below. Students who take one or more courses for-credit will receive a transcript from Dragons School of Record after successful completion of the program.

For-Credit Course Fees                         Type
$800 Flat Transcript Fee 
$400 For-Credit Academic Fee (per course)
$1,200 TOTAL COST (1 course)
$1,600 TOTAL COST (2 courses)

 

To read more about the for-credit courses visit our FAQ Page.

Academics

Two college-level courses are available for-credit, although students are not required to take any courses for-credit while participating on the Gap Semester program. Students who do not take courses for-credit will still complete an ISP and participate in language study. Available for-credit courses on the India semester include:

  • Independent Study Project (ISP): Methods and Application (ANTH/ISP 325; 4 credits)
    (Anthropology 325 / Independent Study Project 325; 4 credits) This course is focused on providing students with a basic understanding of ethnographic research methods and skills, while also giving students the opportunity to develop specialized knowledge in a topic of study. During the first half of the course, a series of thematic seminars focus on research methodologies, the importance of ethics in research, best practices in working in cross-cultural partnerships in the host country, and skills training related to designing a study proposal.  Students develop an understanding of how to refine research question(s), determine appropriate research and learning methods, and address ethical issues related to their projects. During the second half of this course, students use the plan outlined in their approved study proposal to carry out an individualized and in-depth study on a subject of their choice using primary sources. With the support of an academic advisor and/or a local mentor, students select a topic which relates to the program’s scope, design an approach to study this subject, and conduct an individual project.  The chosen topic of independent study may involve either an academic inquiry or the learning of a traditional skill through an apprenticeship. Typical ISP projects include research on environmental issues, yoga and meditation, Ayurvedic medicine, or an intensive focus on the arts: jewelry, traditional dance, sitar, or tabla.
  • Hindi Language Study Level I, II & III (HIND 150/250/350; 4 credits)
    • HIND 150: Hindi I
      (Hindi Language 150; 4 credits) This course introduces students to the Hindi language and is designed for students with no or minimal previous background in spoken or written Hindi. Students in this course focus on learning essential vocabulary, practicing pronunciation, and understanding simple grammatical structures. This knowledge prepares students to effectively communicate in Hindi on a limited range of topics related to everyday situations. Students practice listening and speaking in real-life situations, learn to read and write Hindi script (Devanagari script), and examine how culture and language interact in India. In-class activities and course assignments aim to assist students as they develop the oral proficiency and confidence necessary to initiate simple conversations. Out-of-classroom experiences such a field trips and guided interactions with native speakers supplement formal classroom instruction and provide ample opportunities for practical engagement. In addition, language skills gained in this course support students to deepen participation in other program and academic activities such as homestays and the Independent Study Project.
    • HIND 250: Hindi II
      (Hindi Language 250; 4 credits) This course introduces students to more challenging linguistic Hindi language material in order to establish a solid foundation for the use of the language. Students in this course focus on building on past language exposure to improve speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills. Students expand their oral expression abilities by increasing vocabulary, improving understanding of grammar concepts, strengthening pronunciation abilities, focusing on listening comprehension, and building on previously studied Hindi script (Devanagari script). This course introduces new language concepts to allow students to speak about topics pertaining to their daily lives and also focuses on deepening knowledge of Indian culture and customs. By the end of the semester, students are expected to be able to engage in basic daily conversations, read simple texts, and write for daily needs. In-class activities and course assignments aim to assist students as they develop the ability to appropriately use language and improve proficiency. Out-of-classroom experiences such a field trips and guided interactions with native speakers supplement formal classroom instruction and provide ample opportunities for practical engagement. In addition, language skills gained in this course support students to deepen participation in other program and academic activities such as homestays and the Independent Study Project.
    • HIND 350: Hindi III
      (Hindi Language 350; 4 credits) This course is designed to develop advanced skills in the Hindi language and is intended for students with extensive prior exposure to the language. This course focuses on consolidating linguistic knowledge and development of speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills. Students in this course will develop advanced comprehension of and competence in using spoken Hindi in a wide-variety of experiences. Grammatical functions will be reviewed and incorporated as they relate to particular communication needs. A mix of communicative and interactive methods are used to develop advanced proficiency and materials are drawn from a variety of media sources and texts. In addition, students develop their understanding of the relationship between the Hindi language and culture.  By the end of the semester, students are expected to be able to express sophisticated and nuanced ideas both orally and in writing.  Out-of-classroom experiences such a field trips and guided interactions with native speakers supplement formal classroom instruction and provide ample opportunities for practical engagement. In addition, language skills gained in this course support students to deepen participation in other program and academic activities such as homestays and the Independent Study Project.

    Click on the download button below to view course syllabi.

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Program Components

5/5
Comparative Religion

Inquire deeply into Hindu mythology, philosophy and practice. Learn about Buddhist philosophy and attend a meditation retreat, see Islam in its Indian context, and explore animism as it's been practiced for generations.

4/5
Development Studies

Investigate issues of health, education, urban migration, the caste system, human rights, gender, social inequality, poverty, and more.

4/5
Focus Of Inquiry

Witness firsthand the impact of climate change on diverse ecosystems, and see how environments and people have responded and adapted to these pressures.

5/5
Homestay

Two extended homestays, one in the Himalayan foothills and another in an idyllic Bengali plains town, give deep cultural insight and redefine the notion of family.

5/5
Independent Study Project (ISP)

Pick an area of interest and dive in with a local mentor! Sitar, tabla, Indian cooking, Kathak dance, Hindi or Urdu language, vocals, women’s issues, comparative religion, stone carving, woodworking, and jewelry making are some popular options.

4/5
Language Study

Learn some basic Nepali, the lingua franca of those living in north Bengal and Sikkim, and immerse yourself in Bengali, with regular lessons and immersive practice. There may also be opportunities for Hindi language lessons.

2/5
Learning Service

Reflect on the meaning of service in the context of Indian culture and explore the meaning of reciprocity with youth in Sikkim.

3/5
Rugged Travel

Travel by rickshaw, bus, jeep train, and boat into the Himalayas, across the vast plains, and through the Sundarban mangrove forest.

3/5
Trekking

Trek for ten days in the high Himalaya near Mount Kanchenjunga, the world's third tallest peak. Go on day hikes in the Himalayan foothills, and explore the dense labyrinthine Sundarban mangrove forest on foot.