Nepal: Development and Social Change

Witness the challenges facing Nepal as it works to balance tradition and progress and negotiate economic, political, and social change during a very dynamic period in its history.

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Once thought of as a mythical Shangri-La, Nepal continues to struggle with development and modernization as well as with defining its own national identity. This program examines the multidimensional ways in which development is reshaping a traditionally rural society into one that is rapidly becoming globally connected and modern. Through both classroom and field activities, students will investigate the social, political, cultural, environmental, and economic forces that are reshaping rural and urban communities.

Through thematic lectures and fieldwork, students on the program explore how international development, political conflict, an emerging civil society, and global markets are all working to redefine Nepal in the twenty-first century. Emphasis is placed on examining efforts at social change amidst political renegotiations between citizens and the state. Questions of global and local forces in development and the interplay of cultural and ethnic identities, gender, caste, and class are important lenses for analysis in the program.

Topics of study include:

  • Caste, class, gender, and religion in Nepal
  • Development theory and defining development in Nepal
  • Ethnicity, nationhood, and social and political change
  • Economic development, the emerging middle class, and labor migration
  • Causes and conditions for change and conflict
  • Climate change and environmental concerns in the Himalayas
  • Redefining development, social capital, and civil society

Based in the Kathmandu Valley, the program takes advantage of the learning resources in the city and well beyond: from UNESCO World Heritage sites to Himalayan villages. In Kathmandu, students engage with academics, I/NGOs, and the lived environment, staying with host families to help facilitate meaningful cultural immersion.

In addition to fieldwork around the valley, students take two extended excursions to better understand development and social change from different perspectives: the first to either the Terai or the middle hills region, and an extended excursion and homestay in the Himalayas. In the past, the second excursion has taken place in the Annapurna, Everest, or Langtang regions.

In-country resources and lecturers are drawn from institutions such as:

"SIT Nepal was an experience beyond what I could have ever expected. Everything was as hands on as it could possibly be, complemented by a good dose of real academic theory, case studies, and lecturers by some of the biggest innovators in their field.

"The language classes were amazing — the teachers were definitely some of the best in Nepal and were so enthusiastic, innovative, and caring in their teaching methods that learning was both enhanced and class was something I looked forward to every day.

"The learning approach and experience from my research on the program helped me shape my Fulbright research, and the field visits and techniques learned on SIT really enhanced my research undertaken on the Fulbright.

“The homestay was also incredible. I even returned to stay with them for the first 5 months of my Fulbright research."

—Tyler McMahon
Spring 2006 student
Fulbright Recipient (2007–2008)
Currently with the World Food Programme Nepal

The Nepal Development program recently published a textbook on the Nepali language. Read more about the textbook and language instruction on the program.
Salome Vanwoerden will implement an art therapy workshop in Nepal Salome Vanwoerden, graduate of Rice University and spring 2009 student on this program, was awarded the Alice Rowan Swanson Fellowship, an annual award that returns SIT Study Abroad alums to their host countries to conduct development projects that benefit human rights. She implemented a photography and art therapy class for mental health patients at a Kathmandu hospital. During her Independent Study Project, she taught daily painting workshops for the patients at the same clinic. “Just the act of creating something and getting feedback really helped their self-esteem,” she said. Read more...

Browse this program's Independent Study Projects/Undergraduate Research

Costs Dates

Credits: 16

Duration: 15 weeks

Program Base: Kathmandu

Language Study: Nepali

Prerequisites: None


View Student Evaluations for this program:

About the Evaluations (PDF)

Fall 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Spring 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Fall 2012 Evaluations (PDF)

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