India Semester

On The Front Lines of Climate Change

A 3-Month Gap Year Program

Enroll
Duration
80 Days
Description

Investigate the impact of climate change at the source, traveling from Himalayan glaciers to the Indian plains, examining environmental activism across cultures and landscapes. Upcoming semesters and COVID-19.

*College Credit Available

Spring Dates

Feb 11 - May 1, 2022


Spring Availability

open

Fall Dates

Sep 15 - Dec 3, 2021


Fall Availability

closed

Number of Participants

12


Suggested Ages

17-22

Spring Begins In

39 Weeks

Fall Begins In

18 Weeks

Land Cost

$14,950


Estimated Flight Cost

$2,045

New Delhi

Kolkata

Kalimpong

Gangtok

Santiniketan

The Sundarbans

Program Overview

Investigate the impacts of climate change at the source


From the Bay of Bengal to the highest Himalayan peaks, water dictates the lives and livelihoods of millions. As the Earth’s climate changes, warming temperatures at altitude result in higher glacial melt in the Himalayas, while more unpredictable weather patterns leave millions vulnerable to drought and cyclones or other tropical storms born out of the Bay of Bengal. Dragons India semester offers students the opportunity to go beyond India’s trodden traveler trails to live and learn alongside communities on the front lines of this era’s climate crisis.

Program Highlights
  • Deep focus on the practical impacts of climate change and water issues in varied ecosystems from the mountains to the plains
  • Spend time in communities that are off the beaten path, learning alongside India’s vast diversity of people, cultures, and landscapes
  • Delve into local rhythms on a high altitude trek and at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery retreat

Students…

From the Bay of Bengal to the highest Himalayan peaks, water dictates the lives and livelihoods of millions. As the Earth’s climate changes, warming temperatures at altitude result in higher glacial melt in the Himalayas, while more unpredictable weather patterns leave millions vulnerable to drought and cyclones or other tropical storms born out of the Bay of Bengal. Dragons India semester offers students the opportunity to go beyond India’s trodden traveler trails to live and learn alongside communities on the front lines of this era’s climate crisis.

Program Highlights
  • Deep focus on the practical impacts of climate change and water issues in varied ecosystems from the mountains to the plains
  • Spend time in communities that are off the beaten path, learning alongside India’s vast diversity of people, cultures, and landscapes
  • Delve into local rhythms on a high altitude trek and at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery retreat

Students navigate from verdant tea plantations to high Himalayan passes; from mangrove forests lining the coast to expanses of lush rice paddies fed by the sacred Ganges river. We experience first-hand how India’s emerging global economy and changing climate patterns have generated riches for some and displaced others. Two extended homestays—one in the Himalayan foothills and another in an idyllic Bengali plains town—allow students to participate in the daily rituals that underpin the rich cultural and spiritual traditions of the region. Community leaders and experts share perspectives on Indian politics, climate change, and culture, and independent study projects engage students with artists, musicians, healers, and farmers.

Traveling north to the ancient Buddhist kingdom of Sikkim in the heart of the Himalayas, students settle into a group stay with an indigenous Lepcha community learning about the fragile ecosystem and the impact of decades of river damming, listen to enchanting local folklore, and day hike through lush forests. An extended trek with majestic views of the mighty Kanchenjunga, the world’s third tallest mountain, allows students to witness the exquisite beauty and power of the Himalayas. Off the trail, the group settles into an intensive meditation retreat at a local Tibetan Buddhist monastery, gaining insight into Buddhist philosophy and practicing contemplative techniques, as well as questioning the role that religion has to play in generating environmental awareness and social change.

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.

Following waterways all the way out to their end point in the Bay of Bengal to witness the tensions between tiger and other wildlife conservation and development for the communities that call the forest their home. The Sundarbans are 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 the opportunity to speak with NGOs and academics about their city’s growth and development and to witness the effects of significant urban migration. Strolling along the city’s wide-tree lined avenues and watching pick-up cricket games in the city’s expansive parks, we also get 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.

Following the waterways that provide a lifeline to millions from glacial melt in the Himalayas through the plains and out to ocean, India semester students are witness to some of the quickest and most consequential environmental changes of our time, learning alongside the scholars, scientists, farmers, and activists who are working around the clock to adapt and protect their life, livelihoods, and communities.

Read More Read Less Sample Itinerary

For-Credit Course Option

In order to deepen your experience abroad, you may elect to enroll in college-level courses while participating on the India Gap semester program. Those who enroll in an optional course will be invoiced an additional $1,800 on top of the land cost, for up to 20 college credits. To learn more, click here.

Students who take courses for-credit will receive a transcript from our School of Records after successful completion of the program.

Academics

Through our School of Records, you may take the following courses for-college credit:

  • NPL 150: Nepali I, NPL 250: Nepali II, NPL 350: Nepali III
  • ANTH 299: People and Places – How Location Affects Culture
  • ESM 101: Environmental Sustainability
  • ESM 102: Global Perspectives
  • ESM 199: Climate Change and Its Impacts
  • GEOG 299: Geography of Global Issues
  • HIST 299: Colonialization and Western Influences
  • INTL 199: Globalization Awareness and Community Development
  • INTL 299: Leadership Across Borders
  • MGMT 299: Principles of Economics; International Economics
  • PHE 299: Healthcare Systems and the Affected
  • PHL 299: Introduction to Spiritual/ Religious Studies & Their Roles in Culture
  • PSY 299: Culture and Its Influence on the Ways People Operate
  • SOC 199: Self and Community – Culture, Cohort, and Self

See full Course Offering descriptions.

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.

5/5
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.