India Semester

On The Front Lines of Climate Change

A 3-Month Gap Year Program

Enroll
Duration
85 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.

Spring Dates

Feb 7 - May 1, 2020


Spring Availability

closed

Fall Dates

Sep 15 - Dec 6, 2020


Fall Availability

open

Number of Participants

12


Suggested Ages

17-22

Spring Begins In

3 Weeks

Fall Begins In

34 Weeks

Land Cost

$14,915


Estimated Flight Cost

$1,995

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 a college-level language course while participating on the India Gap semester program. Those who enroll in an optional course will be invoiced additional fees on top of the land cost, as noted below. 

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

 

Students who take a course for-credit will receive a transcript from Dragons School of Record after successful completion of the program. To read more about the for-credit courses visit our FAQ Page.

Academics

The optional for-credit language course is worth 4 semester credits and is offered at a variety of levels. Included below are course descriptions for the language courses available:

Nepali Language Study Level I, II & III (NPL 150/250/350; 4 credits)

  • NPL: 150 Nepali I
    (Nepali Language 150; 4 credits) This course introduces students to the Nepali language and is designed for students with no or minimal previous background in spoken or written Nepali. Students in this course focus on learning essential vocabulary, practicing pronunciation, and understanding simple grammatical structures. This knowledge prepares students to effectively communicate in Nepali on a limited range of topics related to everyday situations. Students practice listening and speaking in real-life situations, learn to read and write Nepali script (Devanagari script), and examine how culture and language interact in Nepal. 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.
  • NPL: 250 Nepali II 
    (Nepali Language 250; 4 credits) This course introduces students to more challenging linguistic Nepali 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 Nepali 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 Nepali 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.
  • NPL: 350 Nepali III 
    (Nepali Language 350; 4 credits) This course is designed to develop advanced skills in the Nepali 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 Nepali 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 Nepali 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.

In addition, you may petition to take an additional for-credit course in order to earn a total of 8 semester credits. Other for-credit courses which may be available upon petition, include Regional Seminar, Independent Study Project (ISP): Methods and Application, or Intercultural Development and Global Citizenship. Contact us with questions about for-credit course options, to learn about registration deadlines, or for copies of sample syllabi.

Read more about why we teach Nepali Language instead of Hindi Language: 

India has 22 official languages (with more than 700 dialects spoken across the country), including language such as Hindi and Nepali. Nepali is the mother tongue of the majority of residents of the Himalayan foothills in northern Bengal and Sikkim, and this is an area that groups often spend a significant portion of the semester. Because our Gap semester groups tend to spend more time in Nepali speaking areas than Hindi speaking areas, this is the target language we focus on and the for-credit language course we offer. India Gap semester students wishing to study the Hindi language are welcome to choose this as their Independent Study Project.

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.