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Offered through the School for International Training (SIT), the Nepal Development and Social change program is co-sponsored by UW-Madison. This program allows students a unique opportunity to witness the challenges facing Nepal as it works to balance tradition and progress and negotiate economic, political, and social change. Renowned for its scenery, from the peaks of the Himalayas to the remnants of tropical jungles in the tarai, Nepal is a land of complex ethnic and cultural diversity. Many Nepalese communities - shaped by their physical environments and pressured by scarce resources - have found innovative solutions that have helped them move forward in a challenging environment. Today, international development, internal political conflict, an emerging civil society, and the global market are all working to redefine Nepal in the twenty-first century.
Based in the Kathmandu Valley, the program examines topics ranging from preservation of UNESCO World Heritage Sites to tourist impact on local culture and national parks. Students also take field excursions to the tarai, the Indian hills station of Darjeeling, and a village in the Himalayas. Students live with host families in Kathmandu for six weeks and typically a rural homestay with a Nepali family for a shorter period.
The SIT Nepal program is based in the colorful and dynamic Kathmandu Valley. Famous for its architecture and Newari culture, the Kathmandu Valley contains seven monuments listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. These include the ancient city of Bhaktapur, Kathmandu Durbar Square, the famous Buddhist stupas of Swayambhu and Boudha, the Hindu temple complex Pashupatinath, and Patan city.
The program house is conveniently located in Naxal, right in the center of the city, and provides a safe and quiet haven for students in the midst of the busy urban activity.
Getting to Your Program
Participants are responsible for arranging round-trip transportation to the program site.
A student visa is required. U.S. citizens must have a U.S. passport valid for at least six months beyond the end of the program. SIT will provide you with visa information.
OrientationIAP expects you to be an active participant in preparing yourself for your study abroad experience. As a participant on an IAP program, you will receive a pre-departure orientation, either in-person or online. The type and format of this orientation will vary by program and will be provided to you upon acceptance to the program.
SIT Nepal on-site staff will also provide orientation for students upon arrival.
HousingStudents live with a host family in the Kathmandu Valley for the first six weeks of the program and also have a six-day homestay with a rural family as a part of the program. Other accommodations during the program include hostels or small hotels.
Excursions and Activities
Excursions introduce students to the challenges of development in Nepal's rural mountainous areas and enable them to explore issues of conservation and human habitat around national parks in the Terai. Students are also exposed to the Nepali Diaspora in the neighboring Indian hill town of Darjeeling.
Conditions permitting, students may have the opportunity to participate in village excursions which involve several days of trekking in national parks in the Himalayas to remote village locations. Students stay with rural families and often have opportunities to visit sites of development projects, such as micro-hydropower plants, and to participate in local agricultural work and/or religious ceremonies.
The program visits many Kathmandu Valley UNESCO World Heritage monuments, such as Bhaktapur and Patan Durbar Square and Museum. Students also participate with local artisans in time-honored craft workshops and sometimes prepare a traditional feast with their homestay families. In some semesters, the program makes an excursion to Darjeeling and/or to the lowland tarai in Nepal.
You will be enrolled in the UW System required health insurance through Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI) and the cost of the insurance coverage is included in program fees.
On-site Academic Director and Assistant Academic Director
Returned Student Network
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"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."
Students take an intensive 6-credit Nepali language course as well as a 3-credit Development and Social Change seminar. The seminar is an interdisciplinary course conducted in English with required readings and rural field study. Students also complete a 3-credit Field Methods and Ethics course and an independent study project. The independent study project can be conducted in Kathmandu or, with program approval, in other parts of Nepal. Past topics have included: ecotourism and its effect on wildlife management; sacred geography; urban monastic communities; preservation of temple architecture; religion and nature; traditional healing practices; ethnobotany; herbal trade; community forestry; Ayurveda; migration and population issues; ethnic politics; rural development and aid; indigenous crafts; women's health issues.
The program takes full advantage of the countless academic resources located in the Valley, including visiting scholars, a plethora of NGO and INGO headquarters, and a wealth of important world-famous cultural heritage sites.
Program Web Page(s)
SIT Nepal Program
Use the links below to see a list of courses that students have taken on this program before and the UW equivalents. Note: this list only includes pre-approved courses for your program and may not be an exhaustive list of courses or departments. You will get instructions on the course equivalent process after acceptance.
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