Study the social impacts of climate change through the political economy of food, water, and energy in some of the world’s most productive and vulnerable landscapes.
Explore the social impacts of climate change and engage with high-level policymakers, researchers, activists, business people, farmers, fishermen, nonprofit managers, and others across four countries.
Investigate varied impacts of climate change — extreme weather, desertification, ocean acidification, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, loss of biodiversity, and dangerous social upheavals — and think seriously about realistic solutions.
Learn about the precarious nexus of California’s food, water, and energy systems over two weeks in San Francisco.
See firsthand the effects of tourism and climate change on Vietnam’s socio-ecological systems during four weeks there.
Study issues around water conflicts and agricultural development policies during four weeks in Morocco.
Discover the political and environmental complexities of Bolivia during five weeks there.
Critical Global Issue of Study
Climate | Environment
None, although previous coursework in political science, economics, and/or environmental science is recommended.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- How climate change is impacting regions differently and how people are adapting to these changes
- The appropriate roles of government, business, social movements, and individuals in addressing this multifaceted crisis
- The technologies and traditional forms of local knowledge that can realistically meet humanity’s need for energy in a sustainable way
- The economic interests and institutional arrangements that prevent us from more effectively addressing the climate crisis
The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term. The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.
- The Science and Policy of Climate Change – syllabus
- (ECOL3010 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- This course unpacks the basic science of the climate system by examining the state-of-the-art science collated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and through regular engagement with scientists and researchers. Students learn how to read scientific papers and analyze the policy process at local, national, and international levels. They also consider the tangle of acronyms - such as IPCCC, UNFCCC, and CDM - that define international policy discourses on climate change. The course looks at smaller scale, regional initiatives such as California's state-level efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and its investments in renewable energy; Morocco's green plan; and Plan 2020.
- Political Economy and Environmental History: 1492 to the Present – syllabus
- (ECON3010 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- This course analyzes the development and history of modern capitalism on a global scale. Topics of consideration within this context include state formation, war, imperialism, technology, energy, environmental change, economic crisis, and “long waves of accumulation.” There is a particular focus on post–World War II developments, including the rise of Keynesianism globally; the role of socialist economies; the political economy of the Cold War; Third World development; the global crisis of profitability in the 1970s, the resultant economic restructuring, and the turn toward neoliberalism; the collapse of communism; the acceleration of neoliberalism and its deepening crisis; the rise of developing economies such as China; and the possibility of alternative economic models.
- Comparative Issues in Food, Water, and Energy – syllabus
- (SDIS3070 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- This course looks at agriculture and energy, and the attendant resources upon which those sectors depend. Students visit farms, fishing communities, food processors, and food transportation companies, while examining the history and political economy of food production in each country visited. A similar approach is taken in examining the energy sector; fieldwork complements detailed studies of geography and political economy as students encounter the natural sciences, companies, technologies, and regulatory arrangements that constitute “the energy sector.” The course also examines the technologies of emerging alternatives such as solar, wind, and tidal power.
- Fieldwork Ethics and Comparative Research Methods – syllabus
- (ANTH3500 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- This course enables students to understand and benefit from experience-based learning processes. It provides students with skills related to gathering, analyzing, and interpreting information from a range of sources, maximizing the knowledge provided by local contexts. The course intends to assist students in assessing their own cultural assumptions and in understanding people from different cultures. Students are familiarized with the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review Policy. The seminar provides a framework for a cumulative project involving data collection and qualitative research undertaken in each of the countries visited.
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
United States: San Francisco
Start your examination of climate science in the San Francisco Bay Area. Here, you will begin your examination of climate change through the framework of environmental justice, understanding race, class, and gender as key social determinants of vulnerability to climate impacts. You will delve into the history of global governance in climate change negotiations and learn current US and California climate policy. You will explore the fossil fuel industry and its impacts on low-income urban and rural communities and be introduced to the scientific basis of anthropogenic climate change. In the Central Valley, you will study the state’s massive agricultural sector, both organic and chemical based, and in Richmond you’ll learn about urban food justice efforts. You will also meet activists, social entrepreneurs, and civil society professionals involved in climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts.
Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, Hoi An, Hanoi
You will then travel to Vietnam, a country highly vulnerable to climate change. You will spend your first week here in Hanoi, the capital city of this one-party, nominally socialist country. Here, you will learn about Vietnam’s environmental and climate change policies, including its position on renewable energy. You will meet with NGOs, academics, and government officials to get both “official” and alternative perspectives on how Vietnam is planning, or is not planning, to cope with climate change.
After that, you will head to Hue and Hoi An, in Vietnam’s Central Coast, where you will have a chance to see firsthand the impact of climate change on the interrelated socio-ecological systems of food, water, and energy of this agricultural region. You will learn about the consequences of highland dams for downstream communities and ecosystems; visit Tam Giang Lagoon, the biggest fresh water lagoon in the region, to learn how changing climate patterns are affecting aquaculture farming; and travel to the Cham Islands to learn about their strategies for adapting to climate change.
In Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage site, you will live with a local family, join with farmers who are part of a budding organic farming movement in the region, and learn about rural-urban dynamics and the ability of coastal cities to adapt to the effects of climate change. Finally, you and your group will travel south to Ho Chi Minh City, the largest city in Vietnam, where you will reflect on your time in Vietnam.
Morocco: Rabat, Casablanca, the Atlas Mountains
Next, you will travel to Morocco, which, like Vietnam, is on the front lines of climate change. You will be based in the port city of Rabat, Morocco’s capital and political and diplomatic center, where you will examine the complex social and political issues in natural resource management policies Morocco faces as it deals with climate change. You will visit Casablanca, Morocco’s largest city and economic center, where you will learn about the country’s energy policies. Morocco has very little oil or gas and has been making massive investments in renewable energy, in particular, wind and solar power. You will travel to the Atlas Mountains, where you will visit a community struggling to defend its local water source and meet with farmers striving to modernize their small-scale agricultural practices. In Agadir, on the southern coast, you’ll see an agriculturally intensive region beginning to feel the effects of climate change on temperature, rainfall, sea level, and biome boundaries (i.e., desertification as the Sahara desert creeps towards the coast from the south).
Bolivia: Cochabamba, La Paz, Lake Titicaca
You will conclude the program in Bolivia, a politically complex country especially vulnerable to climate change. In 2010, Bolivia passed a law that recognizes the “rights of Mother Earth,” yet it remains economically dependent on large-scale mining and the extraction and export of natural gas. During your time here, you will be based in Cochabamba, one of Bolivia’s most socially progressive cities and, in 2000, the location of successful protests against the privatization of water. You will go on excursions to La Paz, Bolivia’s seat of government, and Lake Titicaca, which since 2000 has experienced consistently receding water levels because of changes in climate. You will reflect on your learning throughout the program during an end-of-semester retreat in the Amazonian region of Chapare.
Faculty and Staff
Faculty and Staff
The faculty/staff team shown on this page is a sample of the individuals who may lead your specific program. Faculty and coordinators are subject to change to accommodate each program’s unique schedule and locations.
Nicolas Stahelin, PhD Candidate, Program Director
Nicolas is an educator and political ecologist who has worked in the field of experiential learning, international and cross-cultural exchange, school-community partnerships, and higher education for nearly fifteen years. He has a BA in environmental studies from Oberlin College and an MA in international educational development from Columbia University and is in the final stages of his doctoral candidacy in international and comparative education, also at Columbia. His teaching and research engage with sustainability in global and comparative perspectives at the intersection of political ecology, environmental justice, globalization studies, and the sociology of education. In recent research, Nicolas examined the ideological divergence between critical environmental education movements in Brazil and UNESCO’s Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. He is an alum (fall 2000) and former program assistant (spring 2001, 2003–2004) of an SIT program in Brazil. More recently he was the director of the Peace Corps Fellows Program at Columbia University. Originally of Swiss-Brazilian nationality, Nicolas lived for twenty years in Brazil and Venezuela and is fluent in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French.
Zufan Hagos, MA, Program Manager
Zufan holds a BS in secondary education and Spanish from the University of Vermont and an MA in international education from SIT Graduate Institute. Zufan’s work has focused on multicultural education, service-learning, language acquisition, and international education. Prior to joining IHP, Zufan worked with Putney Student Travel, National Geographic Student Expeditions, and the Center for International Studies designing, managing, and facilitating middle, high school, and college level programs in Central and South America, Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean.
Erin Axelrod, BA, Launch Coordinator
Erin is a partner/worker-owner with LIFT Economy, a consulting firm providing technical skills for mission-driven entrepreneurs, where she helps accelerate the spread of climate-beneficial businesses. Her specialty is working with businesses that address critical soil and water regeneration. She experienced firsthand the critical connections between climate change and food as a participant on an IHP program during the 2008 global food riots. After graduating with a BA in urban studies from Barnard College, Columbia University, Erin worked for four years as the city programs coordinator for Daily Acts Organization, producing water conservation programs for cities, transforming lawns into food, and helping design and manage a successful greywater reuse education and installation program. She works with the Fibershed Project and was a contributing author for an economic feasibility study for implementing a bioregional-scale regenerative textile mill in California. She is on the advisory board of BlueBarrel Systems, a women-owned national rainwater catchment start-up company. A frequent public speaker, she has given presentations at conferences including the Permaculture Voices Conference, the Sustainable Enterprise Conference, NorCal Permaculture Convergence, and the California Greywater Conference.
Phuong Hoang, MA, Country Coordinator, Vietnam
Phuong earned a master’s degree in sustainable development from SIT Graduate Institute in 2010 and a bachelor of science in international relations from Edgewood College, Madison, Wisconsin, in 2007. After ten years studying and living in the US, Phuong moved back to Vietnam in late 2010 and worked for UN-REDD Programme Vietnam as a communication and network officer, and now she is a coordinator for Participatory Governance Assessment for REDD+ with UNDP Vietnam.
Jawad Moustakbal, Country Coordinator, Morocco
Jawad graduated in 2000 with a degree in civil engineering from the EHTP engineering school in Casablanca. He worked as project manager in several companies including OCP, the Moroccan phosphates state company, and as a temporary professor in Bouchaib Doukali University. He is currently working as consultant in construction management services. Jawad is also an active member of ATTAC/CADTM Morocco and ACME: Moroccan association for an international water agreement.
Michael Shanks, PhD Candidate, Traveling Faculty
Michael first came to Bolivia in 1996 as an undergraduate student on the SIT Study Abroad program. Since 2013, Michael has served as in-country academic advisor, country coordinator, and faculty for this program. Michael’s also spent many years as a field examiner with the National Labor Relations Board, where he investigated unfair labor practices, administered formal hearings on union representation issues, and conducted elections on the question of union representation in the workplace. Michael received his bachelor’s degree in international relations from San Francisco State University and his master’s degree in Latin American studies at University of California, Berkeley. His master’s thesis focused on the emergence of indigenous political parties, the reaction of traditional elites, and how concepts of “race” influence society, politics, and governance. While at Berkeley, Michael was a graduate student instructor for courses on international political economy and economic history. He is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in communication and information at the Bolivian Catholic University in Cochabamba.
Jessica Robinson, Trustees’ Fellow
A feminist and environmental activist based in Bolivia, Jessie graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in political science and international studies. During her time at Northwestern, she participated in SIT Study Abroad’s program in Bolivia, where she researched Andean feminism. Upon graduation, Jessie worked in Chicago for several years, providing support to low-income community college students, developing a free bilingual adult education program, and organizing volunteers for youth programs. In 2012, Jessie moved to Cochabamba, Bolivia, to write analyses on human rights issues and political dynamics in Bolivia. Jessie assisted in coordinating the first few semesters of the IHP: Climate Change program in Bolivia. This is her second semester as a Trustees’ Fellow.
The homestay is an integral part of the SIT experience. During your homestay, you’ll become a member of a local family, sharing meals with them, joining them for special occasions, talking with them in their language, and experiencing the host country through their eyes. Homestay placements are arranged by a local coordinator who carefully screens and approves each family. Students frequently cite the homestay as the highlight of their program. Read more about SIT homestays.
You will live with a host family for between two and four weeks at each program site, with the exception of the first location. Homestays are the primary form of accommodation on the program; other accommodations can include guest houses, hostels, dormitories, and/or small hotels.
Family structures vary in every place. For example, the host family may include a single mother of two small children or a large extended family with many people coming and going all the time. Please bear in mind that the idea of what constitutes a “home” (i.e., the physical nature of the house) may be different from what you expect. You will need to be prepared to adapt to a new life with a new diet, a new schedule, new people, and possibly new priorities and expectations.
A diversity of students representing different colleges, universities, and majors study abroad on this program. Many of them have gone on to do amazing things that connect back to their experience abroad with SIT. Learn what some of them are now doing.
Recent positions held by alumni of this program include:
- Research assistant for the United Nations, conducting work in Ecuador
- Truman Scholarship recipient, continuing research at the postgraduate level
- Fulbright recipients, returning to work in the countries the program visits
- Intern at EcoPeace Middle East, Amman, Jordan
Cost and Scholarships
Cost and Scholarships
SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.
SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding for the term during which they are studying with SIT. This award can be applied to any SIT program. Qualified students must complete the scholarship portion of their application. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.
The tuition fee covers the following program components:
- Content and logistics for field programs in San Francisco, Vietnam, Morocco, and Bolivia
- Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
- Locally taught classes
- Comparative Issues in Food, Water, and Energy
- The Science and Policy of Climate Change
- Classes taught by traveling faculty
- Political Economy and Environmental History
- Fieldwork Ethics and Comparative Research Methods
- Locally taught classes
- Guest lectures and panel discussions
- Site visit hosts and facilitators
- Transportation to classroom spaces and daily program activities
- All educational excursions to locations such as the Atlas Mountains, including all related travel costs
- Traveler’s health insurance throughout the entire program period
- Instructional materials
- Other direct program costs
Note: Break are not covered by program fees; students are responsible for this.
- Group airfare during the program
- Airfare includes a flight back to a city in the US at the conclusion of the program.
Room & Board: $4,500
The room and board fee covers the following program components:
- All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in all four countries, urban and rural stays, all excursions, and the final retreat. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.
- All homestays in Vietnam, Morocco, and Bolivia
- All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend, or through the homestay.
Estimated Additional Costs:
Domestic Airfare to Program Launch Site
Domestic airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.
Visa Expenses: $275
Books & Supplies: $150
International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.
Break: $250 - $600
Please note: This is an estimated range based on student surveys from past semesters. Students' individual needs for their breaks will vary. For the entirety of the break period, students will be responsible for all of their expenses, including travel and room and board.
Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.
Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.
Contact A Former Student
These letters home are from previous terms. Site locations may vary from term to term.