Witness the challenges Nepal faces in balancing tradition and progress and negotiating economic, political, and social change during a dynamic period in its history.
Witness how international development, political conﬂict, 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. Through classroom and field activities, you’ll investigate the historical, social, political, religious, cultural, environmental, and economic forces shaping and reshaping governance and 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.
Visit Chitwan National Park or the terraced fields and grower cooperatives 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 development differences among Nepali communities. You will see wildlife and visit villages, NGOs, small businesses, and local organizations.
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 palace museum (formerly the 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; changes in governance system
- Gender, development, and social issues: Gender issues in development; women’s development challenges in Nepal; gender rights and the search for agency
- Development and globalization: Development efforts by state and communities to compete in and integrate into the global market, infrastructure, and changing landscapes
- Development redefined: Social entrepreneurship; social capital and civil society; community driven development, and sustainable development
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). The program’s excellent Nepali language course prepares students for a rich ISP experience in which even novice learners are able to engage productively in their research using newly acquired Nepali language skills.
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.
- 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 field study projects. Sample topic areas: ecotourism and its effect on wildlife management; geographies of development; preservation of temple architecture and heritage sites; water scarcity in Kathmandu valley; statelessness and discourse on citizenship; community forestry; migration and population issues; 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.
Organic farming and food security in Sikkim, India
Spend a week in a Nepali-speaking village in the lush, green foothills of the Indian Himalaya. Here in the northeast state of Sikkim, you’ll get hands-on experience working on a subsistence farm. You’ll see the techniques used and the labor required in such farming and discover how food systems and agriculture have changed with time. You’ll focus on women’s roles in farming and development and see the impact of social change and development on food security.
On your way back from Sikkim, you will stay in the small city of Darjeeling, famous for its tea, where you will learn about tea cultivation.
You will live with a homestay family in Sikkim and a hostel or small hotel in Darjeeling.
Rural immersion in Dolpo (Western Nepal)
Be immersed in a rural community in Nepal. Help your homestay families on their farm with weeding, ploughing, and other chores. Work with a local mothers’ group or participate in a small community project with the youth of the village. You’ll be connected with villagers who will help you learn how to approach people, work with community members, and figure out and negotiate your own limitations while remaining ethically aware about your interactions with community members.
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.
Faculty and Staff
Faculty and Staff
Suman Pant, PhD, Academic Director
Suman received her doctorate in public policy from Oregon State University, where she has taught undergraduate political science courses and graduate level research methods. Her dissertation examined Nepal’s community forestry to understand how historical institutions and social construction impacts the effectiveness of devolved governance and collective action. Her research and work intersect development, resource management, and gender issues in Nepal. She has also worked with various nongovernment organizations that work for Nepal’s disadvantaged children and women. She has widely traveled in Nepal as a researcher and field practitioner.
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 six languages and has taught Nepali since 1996, working with the US Peace Corps, with study abroad programs, and as a private tutor. He is also a certified Peace Corps Nepali Language Proficiency Interview (LPI) tester. 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.
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
- Squatter communities and land access in Kathmandu
- Population growth and water scarcity in Kathmandu
- 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
- Gender equity and rights
- Emerging dating and marriage patterns in urban Newari youth
- Humanitarian aid and post-earthquake reconstruction efforts
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.
This information is provided to assist you in identifying possible accessibility barriers and preparing for an accessible educational experience with SIT Study Abroad. You should be aware that while in-country conditions and resources vary by site, every effort is made to work collaboratively with qualified individuals to facilitate disability-related accommodation. Students with disabilities are encouraged to contact SIT’s Disability Services at email@example.com for additional information related to access abroad and to discuss possible accommodations.
During the coursework phase of the program, you will generally be in class five days per week for four and a half to six hours per day. You will have tea breaks between classes and a 90-minute lunch break. Learning is typically assessed through take-home assignments, in-class assignments, written assignments/exams, oral presentations/exams, individual assignments, group assignments, and in-class quizzes/exams. Course readings and in-class materials are typically available in a digital format.
If you have questions about alternate format materials, testing accommodations, or other academic accommodations, you are encouraged to contact the Office of Disability Services as early as possible.
The exterior entrance to the SIT program office has a threshold bump of approximately six-and-a-half inches. The building’s doorways measure at least 32 in. (82 cm.) wide. The library and language classrooms are located on the second floor which can only be accessed by stairs. The lecture hall, an additional language classroom, and the restroom are located on the ground floor. The restroom has a wide stall, running water, and a toilet seat raised approximately 16 in. (40 cm.) off the ground.
The program includes multi-day excursions to the middle hills, or Terai, and the Himalayan Mountains. Excursions include trekking and hiking for multiple days at a time at high altitudes (up to 13,000 feet) that involve steep uphill climbs. The excursion to the middle hills can involve short (up to half-hour) walks on basic trails (e.g., to village farms). The excursion to Chitwan can involve bicycle riding. A pair of comfortable, waterproof hiking shoes with good ankle support is recommended. Porters may or may not be available for hire to assist with carrying belongings. Program excursions may occasionally vary to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities.
The program’s homestay coordinator will be responsible for placing you in your homestays. These placements are made based, first, on health concerns, including any allergies or dietary needs, to the extent possible. Homestays offer refrigerators for storing medication. The physical accessibility of homestay options is currently limited. If you have questions about homestay accessibility, you are encouraged to contact the Office of Disability Services as early as possible.
The staple of the Nepali diet, which is served for most meals, is dhal bhaat, a meal centered on rice and lentils with sides of curried vegetables, pickle, and sometimes meat. It can be easy to maintain a vegetarian diet in Nepal, though it is more work to be vegan or to maintain a kosher diet. SIT Study Abroad works with students, program staff, homestay families, home colleges and universities, and others to accommodate student dietary needs whenever possible. For more information on dietary needs and dietary preferences, please review the Student Support section of the Student Health, Safety, and Support web page.
In Kathmandu, you will typically travel between your homestay, classes, and/or placement sites by walking 25 minutes or taking a local bus. Buses are not equipped with wheelchair lifts or ramps. Winding roads make standing to stretch difficult. City streets are narrow and crowded with pedestrian, car, truck, bike, and animal traffic. Unexpected piles of debris and no sidewalks or crossing signals can also make it difficult to navigate Nepalese city streets. Rural roads are not paved and often consist of rough-cut pedestrian/trekking routes on mountainous terrain.
There are many locations in Nepal that are only accessible on foot. To get to excursion locations, you will usually travel by chartered bus, sometimes on short flights and on foot. You should be prepared to walk a lot.
The SIT program center provides wireless internet access, but it is only available during non-class business hours, and bandwidth is limited. Most neighborhoods have businesses such as cafés or restaurants that provide free Wi-Fi as well. The program computer space currently has two computers with word processing and spellcheck. Printing is not available at the program center, so for printing papers it is recommended to bring a flash drive to take to an internet café. You are advised to bring your own academic technology, including laptops, recording devices, adapters, and assistive technology. The deliberate shutdown of electric power to prevent system failure (electricity load shedding) has eased in metropolitan areas, though it is still prevalent in rural areas. It is recommended that you fully insure your electronic property against loss or theft.
If you have questions about assistive technology, note-taking accommodations, or other academic accommodations, you are encouraged to contact the Office of Disability Services as early as possible.
Because of its topography, the Kathmandu Valley can sustain high levels of pollution, fog, dust, and smog. Students with asthma and/or allergies may find that the environment exacerbates these allergies. Nepal’s foremost Western medical clinic is the CIWEC clinic in Kathmandu. CIWEC has been at the forefront of treating travel-related and tropical illnesses. It has also been in the lead in medical research related to gastrointestinal parasites and altitude-related sickness. Payment for medical services is covered by your health insurance if the provider is notified prior to or during the medical service.
Mental health counseling and psychiatric care is not as widely available nor utilized in Nepal in the same way as in the United States, though there is a US-trained psychiatrist on call at the CIWEC clinic.
Once admitted, you are encouraged to discuss any questions or concerns about accessing health services or medication while abroad during the health review process. Read more about the health review process and the summary of benefits for student health insurance.
Requesting Disability-Related Accommodations
To request disability-related accommodations once admitted, you should contact the Office of Disability Services. For more information about the accommodation process, documentation guidelines and a link to the accommodation request form, please visit the Office of Disability Services website.
Students with disabilities are encouraged to contact Disability Services at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802 258-3390 as early as possible for information and support.
Additional Support Resources
MIUSA (Mobility International USA) is a cross-disability organization serving those with cognitive, hearing, learning, mental health, physical, systemic, vision, and other disabilities. It offers numerous resources for persons with disabilities who wish to study abroad and/or engage in international development opportunities.
Abroad with Disabilities (AWD) is a Michigan nonprofit organization founded in 2015 with the goal of promoting the belief that persons with disabilities can and should go abroad. AWD works diligently to empower clients to pursue study, work, volunteer, and/or internship opportunities outside of the United States by creating dialogue, sharing resources, and spreading awareness.
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: $2,960
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:
Airfare to Program Site
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: $160
Books & Supplies: $160
International Phone: Each student must bring a smart phone that is able to accept a local SIM card with them to their program, or they must purchase a smart phone locally.
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.
In order to make study abroad more accessible, SIT's partner colleges and universities may charge home school tuition fees for their students participating on an SIT Study Abroad program. If your institution has an agreement with SIT and charges fees different from those assessed by SIT, please contact your study abroad advisor for more details. The SIT published price is the cost to direct enroll in the SIT program. Tuition fees may vary for students based on your home college's or university's billing policies with SIT.