Myanmar

Visions of Democracy

A 4-week Summer Abroad Program

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Duration
29 Days
Description

Explore one of Asia’s last frontiers: hike between the serene farming communities of Shan State, build core competencies in learning service, learn the tenets of Theravada Buddhism.

Dates

Jun 28 - Jul 27, 2019


Suggested Ages

17-20

Number of Participants

12


Availability

open

Begins In

24 Weeks

Land Cost

$7,650


Estimated Flight Cost

$2,085

Mandalay

Bagan

Kalaw

Yangon

Mawlamyine

Program Overview

Transition. Inspiration. Devotion.


Myanmar is a nation in the throes of extraordinary change. Through engagements with development professionals, community leaders, youth activists and spiritual torchbearers, Dragons summer program examines the socio-political changes that have transformed the country from a locked military dictatorship into its current political state.

Our journey begins in Yangon where we begin to orient ourselves to Myanmar’s complex historical, cultural and spiritual nuances. After a few days, we set off on our travels in the Irrawaddy basin. We first make our way to Bagan, the medieval capital of Myanmar and one of the most spectacular ruined temple complexes on earth. Perched above 4,000 temples spread across the arid landscape, we cycle among gold-spired temples and delve into eco-tourism, ancient history and the role of Buddhism in daily life. Next we travel to Mt Popa, a pilgrimage site for Buddhists and a chance for students…

Myanmar is a nation in the throes of extraordinary change. Through engagements with development professionals, community leaders, youth activists and spiritual torchbearers, Dragons summer program examines the socio-political changes that have transformed the country from a locked military dictatorship into its current political state.

Our journey begins in Yangon where we begin to orient ourselves to Myanmar’s complex historical, cultural and spiritual nuances. After a few days, we set off on our travels in the Irrawaddy basin. We first make our way to Bagan, the medieval capital of Myanmar and one of the most spectacular ruined temple complexes on earth. Perched above 4,000 temples spread across the arid landscape, we cycle among gold-spired temples and delve into eco-tourism, ancient history and the role of Buddhism in daily life. Next we travel to Mt Popa, a pilgrimage site for Buddhists and a chance for students to meet with nuns and join the Buddhist faithful as the hike to the majestic peak to make merit.

Pressing even further east, we arrive in the hilltop town of Kalaw, situated in the cool highlands of the Shan Hills. We trek out of town into the paddies and farmland of the alpine valleys and eventually meet the ethnic Palaung and Danu host families who will welcome us into their homes in Sinleh. Here the world of travelers is behind us and we sleep on mattresses on the floor with our families, join them in the fields on a daily basis, and continue to learn survival Burmese. A two-day trek through the unforgettable patchwork fields of Shan State, staying one night in a monastery, leads us to the famed Inle Lake where our focus turns toward economic development, eco-tourism and environmental preservation of the stilted communities built along its banks.

From Inle, our travels take us to Mandalay for a short rest stop. Here we have the opportunity to observe the influence that China has on Myanmar, as the city’s population continues to swell with immigrants and businessmen. Upon departing Mandalay we begin our travels back toward  choose to travel to Naypyidaw to learn about the transition from military rule to the fledging democracy. Here we are introduced by empty eight-lane highways, buildings without electricity, military museums full of propaganda and once of the world’s weirdest capitals.

Concluding the course in Yangon, we meet with NGO workers from all over the world working on initiatives related to the Rohingya refugees, political transition, ethnic minority rights, democratic education, river ecology and development. During the final days in the frantic city, we find reprieve at Shwedagon, among the most awe-inspiring Buddhist stupas in the world, where we reflect on our experiences and consider the trajectory of the country through the eyes of young politicians, activists, and artists.

 

Read More Read Less Sample Itinerary

Program Components

5/5
Comparative Religion

A 2-3 day meditation retreat will culminate exposure to one of the most traditionally Buddhist nations in the world.

5/5
Development Studies

Multiple meetings with people in development fields: critical and close look at contemporary and long-term development in a so-far sanctioned and closed nation.

5/5
Focus Of Inquiry

Ethnic Minority Issues, Community-Based Development, Environmental Protection/Conservation.

2/5
Homestay

Staying with local ethnic minority families while trekking in Shan/Kachin State.

3/5
Independent Study Project (ISP)

Exposure to many fields, significant independent time for individual interviews, internships, etc.

2/5
Language Study

Basic and introductory Burmese. Classes the first two weeks, optional learning afterward.

4/5
Learning Service

Volunteer opportunities in education (monastic school), rural development, and environmental awareness/conservation. Approximately 10 hours of service credit earned.

5/5
Rugged Travel

Buses, trains, bicycles, tri-shaws, possibly boats: old vehicles on older roads, wooden benches on daylong trains.

3/5
Trekking

A 3-4 day intensive trek through ethnic minority villages.