Investigate the historical and social contexts of human rights movements, including the roles of culture, identity, political economy, and international law in four different countries.
Investigate the historical and social contexts of human rights practice, including the roles of culture, political economy, and international law in four different countries.
Critically examine the United States’ relationship to human rights.
Meet with activists and grassroots organizers in Kathmandu and visit an indigenous community in rural Nepal.
Visit refugee camps; meet with Parliament members; and see Petra, the Dead Sea, and Aqaba in Jordan.
Spend time with feminist leaders, student activists, UN officials, and indigenous Mapuche communities in the Chilean Andes.
Conclude the program with a retreat near the oceanfront residence of poet and Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda.
Critical Global Issue of Study
Peace | Human Rights | Social Movements
None. Coursework in social sciences,such as anthropology, history, economics, sociology, and/or political science. Humanities coursework (philosophy, religion, and/or ethics) is recommended.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- The root causes that incite struggles for human rights in different locations
- How the UN human rights framework came to be and the opportunities and challenges rights discourse poses for the actualization of human rights for all
- How the international “human rights” regime differs from and relates to the broad array of bottom-up “human rights” movements in existence today and throughout history
- The relationship between human rights, activism, and popular mobilization and the strategies of individual and collective action that are utilized to advance human rights in different locales
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.
- Foundations and Frameworks of Human Rights – syllabus
- (HMRT3000 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- The United Nations articulated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Using that historic moment as a point of departure, this course employs the UN framework as a preliminary lens to examine and understand how basic social and economic rights are contested globally. How are human rights advanced and denied in the context of politics and economics, the UN system, and international law? The course examines the ways in which international human rights doctrines adapt to the local contexts of Nepal, Jordan, and Chile, as expressed through contemporary human rights struggles in each site. The localized experiences of human rights practice in three different locales affords fertile opportunity for comparative analysis illuminating the tensions, opportunities, hypocrisies, limitations, and attainments of international human rights norms and instruments. This course is taught by local faculty.
- Comparative Issues in Human Rights – syllabus
- (HMRT3500 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- Drawing from interdisciplinary lenses such as cultural and ethnic studies, gender and sexuality studies, and postcolonial scholarship, this course offers analytical tools to study the nature of oppression and dehumanization and the possibilities for human rights to shape humanizing alternatives. Through selected readings and focused discussions, this course critically considers how historical processes such as colonialism, development, globalization, and neoliberalism shape contemporary human rights governance and resistance. This course forefronts questions of power that underlie human rights practices, challenging students to situate themselves in relationship to global social inequalities. Through the course, students are encouraged to reflect on ways they can exercise individual and group agency to interrupt social inequities in the world around them. This course is taught by traveling faculty.
- The Role of Civil Society: Grassroots Movements and NGOs – syllabus
- (SDIS3320 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- This course focuses on the practical aspects of advocacy and the protection of human rights by nongovernmental organizations and grassroots, popular movements. Through case studies, interviews, and visits to local organizers of advocacy groups, students learn how popular movements are launched and developed, as well as strategies to navigate legal, political, and public arenas. The course contrasts the role, agendas, and effectiveness of grassroots organizations with those of governmental, private sector, and supranational stakeholders. Students meet with local activists and officials who advocate for various human rights agendas to learn about successful and unsuccessful campaigns and to evaluate the use of inquiries, documentation, public outreach, legal action, and other approaches to protecting rights. This course is taught by locally based faculty.
- Fieldwork Ethics and Comparative Research Methods – syllabus
- (ANTH3500 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- This course provides students with the theoretical, conceptual, and practical knowledge for gathering, analyzing, and interpreting information from a range of primary sources. It offers insights for students to assess their own cultural assumptions and to understand other cultures. Students are familiarized with the SIT Human Subjects Review Policy. The course is the foundation for a cumulative study project involving research in all three countries and culminating in a paper and presentation at the end of the semester. This course is taught by traveling faculty.
Program in a minute-ish
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
United States: New York City
The program launches in New York City in order to critically examine the United States’ relationship to human rights. New York City is an ideal launch site for the program, as it is home to many of the largest international human rights bodies, from the United Nations to Amnesty International. Visits to such agencies offer both historical perspectives on human rights and insights into the contemporary practice of human rights organizations internationally. The program also meets with a diversity of community organizers, city officials, and activists working to advance human rights causes in New York City, such as the right to housing, immigrant rights, anti-racism in the criminal justice system, workers’ rights, and LGBTQ rights.
Nepal emerged in 2006 as a parliamentary democracy after a decade of armed conflict pitting Maoist rebels against a long-standing Hindu monarchy. It officially became a republic in 2008. The nation-building process has been long, and you will be exposed to its intricacies, from developing a viable constitution that guarantees equal rights in a multi-ethnic country to confrontations with impunity for wartime abuses, including enforced disappearances, rape, torture, and extrajudicial executions. In Kathmandu, you will meet with lawyers and activists who are working to ensure a more just future in Nepal. Your study will also extend to the complicated politics of the everyday. You will meet grassroots organizers for issues as wide-ranging as urban squatters’ rights, the precarious livelihoods of Tibetan refugees, the labor struggles of domestic workers, and the work of organizations working for LGBTQ rights. The program also spends one week on a rural excursion in the south of Nepal, visiting indigenous communities involved in struggles for land, resources, and political representation.
Jordan is a safe haven in the Middle East and, as such, is an appropriate locale to inquire into the array of human rights violations arising from geopolitical conflicts affecting the region. For decades, Jordan has received thousands of Palestinian, Iraqi, and Syrian refugees. The program probes the historical and contemporary origins of Jordan’s refugee populations by visiting with refugee communities and refugee-focused NGOs living and working both inside and outside refugee camps. The program also has a strong emphasis on gender rights, meeting with an array of scholars and women’s rights organizations with differing interpretations of Islamic feminism. During the program’s stay in Amman, you will meet with members of Parliament and international agencies such as the UN and get multi-layered perspectives on pathways utilized to enact human rights–based change. Additionally, you will go on excursions to historic sites such as Petra, the Dead Sea, and Aqaba, and you will go camping in the desert sands of Wadi Rum.
The rich political history of Chile provides fertile ground for analyses of human rights struggles. After the end of the Pinochet dictatorship, a transition to democracy has been entwined with both the reconciliation of history and the continuation of neoliberal policies that make Chile a profoundly unequal society. You will spend the first half of your time in Chile in Santiago, where you will visit sites such as the Museum of Memory and Human Rights and Villa Grimaldi. You will also meet with feminist leaders, historians, student activists leading the cause for equal access to education, and officials from the UN and multiple NGOs. Then you will travel to the Mapuche territories of southern Chile, to farms in the Andes. You will be immersed in indigenous communities that negotiate the challenges of large-scale natural resource extraction, dam-building, and industrial agriculture, along with racial discrimination.
Wear the hat of a refugee. Immerse yourself in their trials and tribulations and the pain and dwindling hope they face.
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.
Chris Westcott, MA, Program Director
Chris has a BA in environmental studies from Bates College and an MA in international educational development from Columbia University. He has extensive experience working with grassroots human rights NGOs and social change–oriented study abroad programs. Chris’s human rights work has focused predominately on the provision of economic, social, and cultural rights. He has worked on housing and workers’ rights campaigns with the Urban Justice Center and the Freelancers Union in New York City. He was a founding staff member of ENGAGE, where he worked in Thailand and the San Francisco Bay Area on trade justice campaigns affecting the economic rights of farmers and access to affordable medicines for people living with HIV/AIDS. Chris has worked with IHP, first as a traveling faculty member, then as a program manager, since 2012. Earlier, he worked for two years on CIEE Thailand’s study abroad program focusing on globalization and development. He has conducted ethnographic research on the land reform process in post-apartheid South Africa and has done participatory action research on housing rights and educational equity in New York City. He serves on the solidarity board of Community Voices Heard, an economic and racial justice organization based in New York.
Anna Gail Caunca, MA, Program Manager
Anna Gail holds a BS in psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an MA in intercultural service, leadership, and management from SIT Graduate Institute. She also received her licensure in secondary education (social studies), incorporating social justice in the classroom. Anna Gail's work experience has focused on youth and young adult leadership development, community building, residential life and student welfare, international education, and human rights education. Building on her graduate studies in social justice and international education, Anna Gail worked with World Learning’s Youth Leadership and Peacebuilding Programs, facilitating workshops on current issues and youth activism with the Governor’s Institutes of Vermont and traveling with and supporting students through the LondonX and Iraqi Youth Leadership Program for two years. In 2013, she was the Trustees’ Fellow for the inaugural year of the IHP: Human Rights program. After four adventurous years living in Wellington, New Zealand, she became the IHP program manager in 2015.
Lucas Shapiro, Launch Coordinator
Lucas comes to IHP after years of working as a community organizer for housing rights and racial justice in New York City. He served as senior organizer at Brooklyn-based Families United for Racial and Economic Equality, where he fought for living-wage jobs, affordable housing, access to healthy food, and a seat at the table in shaping local development. After earning a degree in social change studies at Ithaca College, Lucas moved to New York City to become the national organizer for a progressive youth and student organization and later worked as an organizer with a tenants’ rights nonprofit. He is working to launch Mayday Space in Bushwick—a dynamic center for social justice organizing, community empowerment, and creative expression.
Yanik Shrestha, Country Coordinator, Nepal
Yanik is the director of Passage International, which facilitates experiential education and global understanding by creating opportunities for students to live and learn abroad. He has guided several treks in Nepal and India and has worked with study abroad programs since 2002. Yanik participated in the No Education: No Freedom, No Opportunity seminar in Germany on whether education should be liberalized. He was involved in an Antenna Foundation project—a dramatized TV series that raised issues on women’s rights and attempted to break taboos. He has been working in radio since 2005, first with a 24-hour commercial radio station and now with Revolution Radio, an online radio station. He is also a part of the hip-hop/slam poetry group Word Warriors.
Dema Al Oun, MA, Country Coordinator, Jordan
Dema received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in law from Jordan University. She is qualified in many aspects of both civil and criminal law within Jordan and has completed more than 35 training courses in legal issues, including several on the rights of children and women. She is also trained in international treaties and agreements pertaining to related human rights issues. Since 2004, she has volunteered at the National Center for Human Rights in Jordan. She is also a member of Talal Abu-Ghazala, a famous law firm in Jordan, and has spent two and a half years as a legal trainer. She has been with SIT since 2008 as homestay coordinator, country coordinator, and advisor for SIT students studying topics related to women, culture, and youth.
Carmen Luz Morales, Country Coordinator, Chile
Carmen holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Santiago and is a consultant at the Observatorio Ciudadano, a leading human rights organization based in Temuco, where she has conducted historical research on Mapuche communities and has coordinated international seminars and workshops to promote the defense of human rights of indigenous communities in Chile. She has worked at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington, DC, as a consultant at the Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression and has taught history courses in Chile and Spanish language and literature courses in France. She divides her time between Santiago and Valparaiso with her husband Matías and daughter Eloísa. She co-constructed the program’s Chile component at its inception in 2013.
Mabel Cobos, Country Coordinator, Chile
Mabel holds a BA in linguistics applied to translation from the University of Santiago of Chile, where she is working on her master’s thesis on solidarity economy in Ecuador. She holds a diploma in economic, social, and cultural rights and public policies from the Henry Dunant Foundation and is working on a diploma in memory, education, and human rights at the University of Chile. She has worked in translation (English and Japanese), interpreting, research, and education. She has been involved in different social and human rights advocacy organizations and is currently a member of the Migrant Action Movement, which defends and promotes the human rights of the migrant community in Chile, working for the equality of people in movement from all perspectives.
Maria Jose Bermeo, EdD, Traveling Faculty
Maria holds an EdD and an advanced certificate in cooperation and conflict resolution from Teachers College, Columbia University, and an MA in international relations from St. Andrews University. Her research examines educational exclusion and the grassroots and institutional strategies that aim to transform them. She is dedicated to designing and implementing educational programming that transforms violence. She co-authored an anti-bias education reference manual for teachers working with refugee populations in Ecuador. She has worked as a teacher trainer; co-led a participatory curriculum development project; carried out two book projects on nonviolence and peacebuilding in South Asia; supported a street education project; supported the writing and recording of oral histories with incarcerated youth; and taught human rights, writing, and leadership courses. She is from Quito.
Aisha Turner, MA, Trustees’ Fellow
Aisha is a writer and producer from Baltimore. She started her career in Washington, DC, as a reporter-producer for PBS NewsHour and has done stints at Al Jazeera America and in local news. Her most recent work has been with Precious Lives, a radio show about gun violence in Milwaukee. She has worked and studied in countries throughout Europe and Africa with the help of various human rights fellowships and has worked in the State Department–funded Belarus Youth Leadership Program. Aisha has a joint MA in global studies from the Universities of Leipzig and Vienna. Her master’s research included comparative approaches to diversity, social exclusion, transitional justice, and urbanization. She has a BA in public policy, sociology, and media studies from Duke University.
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 except the US. Homestays are the primary form of accommodation on the program; other accommodations can include guest houses, hostels, dormitories, and/or small hotels.
Homestay families provide you with the opportunity to live as an integrated member of the host communities. In sharing daily life, conversations, family stories, celebrations, and community events, you will not only learn a tremendous amount, but also develop lasting friendships.
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.
Country coordinators in each location arrange homestay placements. In most cases, students will be placed in homestays in pairs, with placements made to best accommodate health concerns, including allergies or dietary needs. You will not receive information about homestay families until you arrive in each country.
Positions recently held by alumni of this program include:
- Fellow at Amnesty International, New York, NY
- Employment specialist at International Rescue Committee, New York, NY
- Outreach coordinator at the Center for NYC Neighborhoods, New York, NY
- Executive director at Children and Youth First, Kathmandu, Nepal
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 New York City, Nepal, Jordan, and Chile
- Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
- Locally taught classes
- Foundations and Frameworks of Human Rights
- The Role of Civil Society
- Classes taught by traveling faculty
- Fieldwork Ethics and Comparative Research Methods
- Comparative Issues in Human Rights
- 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 Curerrehue, Chile, including all related travel costs
- Traveler’s health insurance throughout the entire program period
- Instructional materials
- Other direct program costs
Note: Break costs 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 Nepal, Jordan, and Chile
- 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: $150
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.