Witness the challenges Nepal faces in balancing tradition and progress and negotiating economic, political, and social change during a dynamic period in its history.
Visit Chitwan National Park or the terraced fields of Nepal’s middle hills.
In spring semesters, visit Chitwan National Park and the surrounding villages and see elephants, monkeys, deer, and birds on a safari. In fall semesters, see the terraced fields, community forests, and coffee grower cooperatives of traditional villages in Nepal’s middle hills. On these excursions, you will be able to immerse yourself in ways that tourists could never imagine. Many students develop deep and lasting relationships with the people they meet.
Trek from village to village along ancient trade routes in the Himalayas, sometimes going as high as 13,000 feet.
Excursions expose you to Nepal’s remarkable biological, geological, cultural, linguistic, social, and religious diversity and reveal the social, economic, and developmental differences among Nepali communities. You will see wildlife and visit villages, NGOs, small businesses, and local organizations.
Witness how international development, political conﬂict, emerging civil society, and global markets are redefining the country.
Sandwiched between the emerging global powerhouses of China and India, Nepal is at the center of transnational relations and is becoming increasingly globalized. Though the UN lists it as one of the least developed countries, Nepal is reshaping itself and writing a new constitution. Through classroom and field activities, you’ll investigate the historical, social, political, religious, cultural, environmental, and economic forces shaping and reshaping communities in Nepal.
Learn from influential experts in the development arena.
The program takes full advantage of the countless academic resources located in the Kathmandu Valley, including visiting scholars, a plethora of NGO and INGO headquarters, bilateral and multilateral donors (such as USAID, DfID, GTZ, and the World Bank), and a wealth of important, world-famous cultural heritage sites. You will have direct exposure to some of the most inspired and important Nepali scholars and practitioners in the development arena, such as activists for ethnic rights, women's issues, education reform, and urban renovation.
Develop competency in Nepali through intensive daily instruction.
You will learn how to speak, read, and write Nepali from Peace Corps–trained teachers. The program has been teaching Nepali for more than 40 years and has published its own language textbook. Class sizes are small, and you are encouraged to practice your language skills at every opportunity. To that end, language instructors will accompany you on excursions so language learning can continue away from the program base. Students typically reach intermediate (and sometimes advanced) levels and are able not only to negotiate everyday needs but also to conduct most of their fieldwork in Nepali.
Explore the Kathmandu Valley and its UNESCO World Heritage sites.
The Valley contains seven World Heritage sites: the ancient city of Bhaktapur, Kathmandu Durbar Square, the Buddhist stupas of Swayambhu and Boudha, the Hindu temple complex Pashupatinath, and Patan city. Kathmandu is a cosmopolitan city, and the valley is extremely diverse with many ancient Newari villages within easy access. The program will take you on numerous excursions to these important places. The SIT program house, where you’ll have most of your classes, is conveniently located near the former royal palace in Kathmandu’s center and is a safe and quiet haven in the midst of busy urban activity.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- Economic development, the emerging middle class, and labor migration
- Climate change and environmental concerns in the Himalayas
- Redefining development, social capital, and civil society
- Ethnicity, nationhood, and social and political change
- Causes and conditions for change and conflict
- Caste, class, gender, and religion in Nepal
This interdisciplinary program balances an overview of Nepal’s history, religions, environments, and diversity with an analysis of some of the most pressing contemporary issues in development and social change. Students are exposed to different environments and viewpoints and develop their own questions about Nepal’s development and interaction with international agencies, its diverse regions and ethnic identities, and its place in South Asia and the world. Lectures and discussions will cover the following topics:
- Introductions to Nepal and development: Locating Nepal in the region (and Kathmandu’s place in Nepal); religious traditions that help define Nepalese society; causes and conditions for change and conflict; introduction to international development
- Diversity and history: Caste and ethnicity in Nepal; early and modern history of the Kingdom; economic forces in the Himalayas; defining development
- Ethnicity, nationhood, and social and political change: Ethnicity and nationalism; political history of Nepal; social change in conflict areas
- Development and social issues: Gender issues in development; women’s development challenges in Nepal; in search of agency
- Development redefined: Social entrepreneurship; social capital and civil society; development and freedom
- Governance, opportunities, and challenges: “Fixing” development in Nepal; development in the twenty-first century; under the governance umbrella
Through the Field Methods and Ethics course, students learn appropriate field methodology and gain practical experience working in the field, ultimately leading toward their Independent Study Project (ISP). Students are also well prepared for their ISP through the program’s excellent language course.
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.
- Development and Social Change Seminar – syllabus
- (ASIA3000 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- An interdisciplinary course conducted in English with required readings and relevant educational excursions. The seminar examines historical and contemporary Nepal, and the social, political, cultural, environmental, and economic forces — both internal and global — that have shaped and continue to define the country. Lecturers are drawn from academic institutions such as Tribhuvan University and the Fulbright Commission, as well as from nongovernmental organizations such as Ashoka and other international and local development agencies working in Nepal.
- Intensive Nepali – syllabus
- (NEPA1506 / 6 credits / 90 hours)
- This course helps students develop a working fluency in Nepali language with an emphasis on speaking and comprehension skills through classroom and field instruction, combined with practice in reading and writing the Devanagari script. Classes are taught two and one-half hours daily. Instructors are native speakers who have received training in language instruction from SIT and the Peace Corps. Instruction includes a variety of interactive, communication-based language teaching techniques that incorporate cultural information into language learning, which helps facilitate ISP research during the final month of the program.
- Field Methods and Ethics – syllabus
- (ANTH3500 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- A course in the concepts of learning across cultures and from field experience and an introduction to the Independent Study Project. Material includes cross-cultural adaptation and skills building; project selection and refinement; appropriate methodologies; field study ethics and the World Learning / SIT Human Subjects Review Policy; developing contacts and finding resources; developing skills in observation and interviewing; gathering, organizing, and communicating data; and maintaining a work journal.
- Independent Study Project – syllabus
- (ISPR3000 / 4 credits / 120 hours)
- Conducted in Kathmandu or, conditions permitting and with program approval, in other parts of Nepal, the Independent Study Project is an opportunity for students to conduct firsthand, meaningful, and original research. Sample topic areas: ecotourism and its effect on wildlife management; geographies of development; preservation of temple architecture and heritage sites; non-timber forest products and ethnobotany; herbal trade; community forestry; migration and population issues; ethnic politics; rural development and aid; women's health challenges.
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
The buffer zone villages of Chitwan National Park (spring semesters)
Through directed fieldwork around the villages of Sauraha, Kumroj, and Bhagmara in the Chitwan district of the Terai, you will visit NGOs, community organizations, tourist operations, indigenous villages, community forests, and business entrepreneurs. You’ll see Chitwan National Park Headquarters, and discuss adaptation, growth, and balance around the park. Here, you will experience an elephant safari, search out the endangered Asian one-horned rhino, and see deer, monkeys, wild elephants, birds, and, if you are very lucky, leopards and tigers.
The middle hills, Palpa District (fall semesters)
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 source of Nepali culture, the middle hills contain natural and cultural diversity. You will visit traditional towns changing from way stations along Himalayan trade routes into modern administrative centers. Amidst terraced fields, you’ll investigate the dynamics of tradition and modernity and see the results of development and changing social relations. Through directed fieldwork around Tansen and the model development village Madanpokhara, you’ll visit community forestry groups, a community radio station, Dhaka cloth factories, mothers’ groups, and coffee grower cooperatives.
A Nepali rural village
In a Himalayan village, usually in the Annapurna region, you will observe the effects of tourism, development, and modernization on fragile mountain communities and examine the unique development challenges of high-altitude Nepal. The village varies from semester to semester, but the fieldwork focuses on similar issues: ecotourism, sustainability of development in mountain areas, culture and religion, development of infrastructure, and economic links.
Trekking in the Himalayas
On the village excursion, you will trek from two to four days in some of the most majestic and beautiful mountains in the world. Sometimes going as high as 13,000 feet, you will experience Himalayan culture amidst beautiful and dramatic landscapes. Most trekking in Nepal follows ancient trade routes and involves short days on the trail. However, some days can involve steep uphill climbs.
Program in a minute-ish
Faculty and Staff
Faculty and Staff
Dan Putnam, PhD Candidate, Academic Director
Dan is a PhD candidate in geography (with a minor in development studies and social change) and a fellow at the MacArthur Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change at the University of Minnesota. He holds a BA in environmental studies and psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an MA in international development and social change from Clark University. Dan researches relations of power, how they are spatially oriented, and how the disadvantaged exercise agency within development. His dissertation research as a Fulbright-Hays Fellow focuses on the scales of neoliberalization, the ways neoliberal development takes hold in Nepal, and how transnational aid reconfigures state structures in Nepal.
Dan came to Nepal as a Peace Corps volunteer in 2000, when he worked with twenty-five village committees in Palpa District on soil conservation and watershed management. His research focused on how development organizations responded to the Maoist “People’s War” and how conflict shapes development. As a Fulbright Scholar in Nepal in 2004–2005, he researched how participatory practices shape decision making of community forestry user groups. Dan also has worked in experiential education as a coordinator for Hurricane Island Outward Bound School’s Florida programs.
Mina K. Rana, Language Director and Student Services Coordinator
Mina is from Tanahu in mid-west Nepal. She has a bachelor’s degree in law from Tribhuvan University. She is experienced in teaching Nepali and has worked with the US Peace Corps and other study abroad programs. Mina has been with SIT Nepal since 2001. She designs language curriculum and lesson plans specific to student needs. As student life coordinator, Mina helps students adjust to the physical and emotional demands of living in a new culture and environment, often becoming something of a big sister during the semester.
Chandra Rana, Senior Language Instructor / Excursion Coordinator
Chandra is from the mid hills of west Nepal. He holds a BA in anthropology from Tribhuvan University and is well versed in Nepal’s historical and political dynamics. After working with the Peace Corps and other programs as a language teacher, he joined SIT in 1997 as senior language instructor. Chandra is instrumental in coordinating student visas. Chandra’s other prime role is to reconnoiter and plan excursions in the Terai and mountain areas.
Sanjib Kumar Pokhrel, Senior Language Instructor / Homestay Coordinator / Librarian
Sanjib is from the Eastern Terai of Nepal. He studied law and has undergraduate degrees in Nepali and political science. He speaks seven languages and has taught Nepali for 15 years with the US Peace Corps and study abroad programs and as a private tutor. As program librarian, Sanjib organizes the research library and makes sure students can find what they need and access SIT’s online collections. As homestay coordinator, he carefully selects families that will add to each student’s experience. He also coordinates homestay families’ training so that homes become more than just a place to stay during the course.
Ram B. Chhetri, Senior Teaching Faculty
Ram is a professor and former head of the Central Department of Sociology/Anthropology at Tribhuvan University. He has been a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the University of Georgia and visiting faculty at the University of Bergen, Norway, and the Institute of Social Studies, The Hague. Ram has published books, articles, and reports on community forestry, knowledge systems, social mobilization, livelihood strategies, gender inclusion, and development. Ram holds a PhD from the University of Hawai‘i.
Anil Chitrakar, Senior Teaching Faculty
Anil received one of the first Ashoka fellowships in Nepal in 1987 for his founding of Environmental Camps for Conservation Awareness. He has spent two decades as a conservationist, environmental leader, and senior Ashoka fellow in Nepal. An engineer by training, Anil pursued graduate work in energy planning at the University of Pennsylvania and joined the Kathmandu municipality for several years before heading to Washington, DC, to become a senior fellow in residence. His projects and organizations have received numerous awards and grants, and he is working on a solar lighting system for villages in Nepal. Anil has taught SIT students in Nepal for many years.
Other lecturers typically include:
Krishna Bhattachan, PhD
Krishna has a PhD in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley, and is a professor of sociology and anthropology at Tribhuvan University. Krishna is extremely knowledgeable about Nepal’s indigenous people and is a panel expert for the Centre for Constitutional Dialogue.
Mukta S. Tamang, PhD
Mukta has a PhD from Cornell University. His publications include “Cultural Diversity and Democracy in Nepal,” Himalayan Research Bulletin, (21)2, 2002; The Working of Democracy in Nepal, seminar, April 2005; and “Culture, Caste and Ethnicity in the Maoist Movement” in Nepali History and Society, (11)2, 2006.
Kesang is a Tibetan-Nepali filmmaker. A graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and of Amherst College, he directed Frames of War; We Corner People; Machhendranath: On the Road with the Red God; and We Homes Chaps. He has also completed three films on Nepali migrant workers in the Gulf.
I have brought back a new sense of perspective and appreciation...
I have brought back a new sense of perspective and appreciation, as well as applicable academic tools and wonderful friends, both Nepali and American. I hope to continue to foster the relationships I have formed and apply the tools I have gathered throughout my life.
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’ll live with a host family in Kathmandu for six weeks, sharing daily activities and observing or participating in several important festivals. Families vary in occupational, educational, and economic levels and live between a 20- and 35-minute walk from the program center. Families include one or more adults and may or may not include children.
On the longer excursion to the Himalayas, you’ll participate in a village homestay, a unique opportunity to better understand the lifestyle of a majority of Nepalis by participating in the daily activities of a rural community.
Other accommodations during the program include guest houses or small hotels.
Recent positions held by alumni of this program include:
- Founder and international advisor at SmartPaani and One Planet Solution, Nepal
- Professor of geography at the University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
- Assistant professor of anthropology at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
- Director of international operations for Nepali Tea Traders, Denver, CO
- Independent filmmaker
Many other alumni have used the Nepali language skills they gained on the program to win Fulbright fellowships and secure professional positions in Nepal after graduation.
Independent Study Project
Independent Study Project
At the end of the program, you will spend four weeks working on an Independent Study Project (ISP), pursuing original research on a topic of interest to you. The ISP is conducted in Kathmandu or, conditions permitting and with program approval, in other parts of Nepal. A large number of students have gone on to use their ISPs as the basis for further research under Fulbright fellowships in Nepal or in securing professional positions with NGOs, the State Department, and the United Nations.
Sample ISP topic areas:
- Rural development and aid
- Community forestry
- The emergence of a middle-class society
- Remittance economies and development
- Women’s health challenges and roles in development
- Human rights in post-conflict situations
- Preservation of world heritage sites
- Changing food geographies and agricultural practices
- Emerging dating and marriage patterns in urban Newari youth
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:
- Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
- Nepali life, culture, and society
- Introductions to Nepalese history, religion, and politics
- Development and environmental issues
- Field Methods and Ethics course and Human Subjects Review
- Intensive Nepali language instruction in small classes
- All educational excursions to locations such as UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Kathmandu Valley, fieldwork excursions to the middle hills or the Terai (depending on season), and a rural homestay excursion to the Himalayas, including all related travel costs
- Independent Study Project (including a stipend for accommodation and food)
- Health insurance throughout the entire program period
Room & Board: $2,860
The room and board fee covers the following program components:
- All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in the program base (Kathmandu), on all excursions, during the Independent Study Project, and during the final evaluation period. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.
- All homestays (six weeks in the Kathmandu Valley and six days in a Himalayan mountain village)
- All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.
Estimated Additional Costs:
International Airfare to Program Launch Site
International 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: $125
Books & Supplies: $160
International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.
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.