Nepal: Development and Social Change
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Time outside the Kathmandu Valley is a major component of the program. Students take advantage of this through two excursions during the semester, one to the middle hills or Terai and another to the Himalayas. Nepal is a country containing part of the Gangetic Plains in the south and the highest point on earth (Mt. Everest) in the north, all within a distance of 120 kilometers. The tremendous biological, geological, cultural, linguistic, social, and religious diversity of the country can only be understood by visiting these different areas. Excursions allow students to better contextualize topics discussed during the seminar by experiencing for themselves the lived experiences of local populations and the on-the-ground realities of development.
Language learning and practical use are emphasized on all excursions, and SIT Nepal’s experienced language staff accompanies students on all major trips. Classes are held daily and can often be very intensive. A field-based approach to learning, focusing on developing interdisciplinary field research skills, is stressed as preparation for the Independent Study Project.
Excursions vary from semester to semester but may include visiting some of the following locations:
The village of Sauraha, in the buffer zone of the Chitwan National Park
Through directed fieldwork around the village of Sauraha, in the Chitwan district of the Terai, students visit numerous NGOs, community based organizations, tourist operations, indigenous villages, community forests, business entrepreneurs, and the Chitwan National Park Headquarters. Students gain a heightened understanding of the trends of adaptation, growth, and balance around the park. Before returning to Kathmandu, students experience one of the world’s premier national parks on an elephant safari, searching out the endangered Asian one-horned rhino, many species of deer, monkeys, wild elephants, birds, and if they are very lucky, leopards and tigers.
A Nepali rural village
During an excursion to a Himalayan village, usually in the Annapurna or Everest regions, students have the opportunity to observe firsthand the effects of tourism, development, and modernization on fragile mountain communities. Students examine the unique development challenges that gravity defines for Nepal. The village varies from semester to semester but the parameters of the fieldwork focus on similar issues: ecotourism, sustainability of development efforts in mountain areas, local culture and religion, and economic links.
Trekking in the Himalayas
Part of the village excursion, students trek from two to four days in some of the most majestic and beautiful areas in the world. Sometimes going as high as 13,000 feet, students experience Himalayan culture and its beautiful and dramatic manifestations. Most trekking in Nepal follows ancient trade routes from village to village and though most trekking involves short days on the trail, Nepal is a mountainous country and some days can involve steep uphill climbs.
The Middle Hills
Between the high Himalayas and the jungle flood plains is the middle hills region of Nepal, but only in Nepal would these mountains be called “hills.” Often seen as the traditional bedrock of Nepali culture, the middle hills contain incredible natural and cultural diversity. Students visit traditional towns that are still in the process of changing from way stations along the old Himalayan trade routes into modern administrative centers. Amidst terraced fields, students investigate the dynamics of tradition and modernity and see firsthand the results of development interventions and changing social relations.
Note: Excursion details are subject to change due to country conditions.
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