An experiential learning experience that combines research, eco-adventure, and hands-on community service-learning projects. Nothing can replace a uniquely immersive experience that takes students to Nepal, where they can experience the sights, sounds, and spirits of the magnificent rural communities, their people, their cultures, and the bio-surroundings. This is an academic learning experience unlike any others that combines research, community service and an eco-adventure. The program allows students to discover new cultures, to see sustainable development in action, and challenges them to find ways to be a giver. This experiential learning, when combined with rigorous research, inquiry, and investigation, can open doors to personal growth and academic maturity. Here is how this community engaged learning and research program achieves its goal:
During this study abroad program, students will:
- Read about Nepal and identified issues (health, environment, culture, people, and development challenges). Help design and develop a possible community service-learning project.
- Travel to Nepal and help implement the community projects in collaboration with the local partners. Help generate research data from such community projects for future analysis and help promote evidence-based learning.
- Participate in a one-week long multi-faceted sustainable development observational tour of the surrounding landscape to see and feel sustainable development in action. Help identify potential community-learning project ideas for future design and implementation.
- Disseminate experiential knowledge and research outputs on return through posters, presentation, papers, research notes, and policy briefs. Help promote eco-tourism through blogs using personal narratives, sounds, and images.
At the heart of this program is the interdisciplinary collaborative community service learning component that invites students from any discipline to join hands to analyze existing problems in the community and offer solutions. We encourage students to use tools of natural sciences, humanities and social sciences. Involving young college students in such exercises will enhance their technical skill, critical thinking, communication, and presentations, not to mention the benefit of acquiring experience in field research. Overall, a well-rounded program like this makes undergraduate research, for example, a good pedagogy.
This one-week long road trip will allow students to observe first-hand some of the sustainable development related challenges as well as solutions found all across the diverse landscape of Western Nepal. Driving through the breathtaking beauty of the mountainous terrains, students will observe grass root community groups and their activities, rural clinics, conservation areas, watershed management, hydro dams, farms, water projects, cultural heritages, historical landmarks, schools, amazing bio-diversity, and of course the rural road structure. This life-changing experience will help students understand the sustainable development issues up-close and personal.
To get a sense of sights, sounds, and spirits of the places and people on the circle, please visit the following photo gallery.
The proposed study abroad program is to last approximately for about three to four weeks in the Fall intersession (mid-December to mid-January). The proposed program’s timeline may look like as follows:
- Arrival in KTM: some sightseeing and travel adjustment, and departure to Bhairahawa on the third day (air or ground travel).
- Bhairahawa (Rupandehi): local site visits, engagements in community project preparation and implementation; lectures and consultation as needed.
- A six-district Lumbini Circle Eco-adventure Loop in Western Nepal:
- Rupandehi (Danda River, Lumbini world heritage site; community service-learning project engagement),
- Kapilvastu (pre-650 BC Buddha’s father’s Kingdom; Jagadishpur Lake for bird watching; community forestry).
- Arghakhachi (historical landmarks, unique communities and people; bio-diversity; health outreach centers, user’s groups; organic farming; Sandhikharka valley; mountain view).
- Gulmi (conservation sites; watershed management; Tamghas valley; Resunga bird sanctuary hill-top hiking).
- Palpa (Kali Gandaki River confluence –Gulmi-Palpa– and the Holy town of Ridi; Hill station town of Tansen –Palpa; Blue Palace and Rani Ghat; rafting option)
- Chitwan (Chitwan National Park: elephant ride; rhinos, tigers).
- Study Abroad Program ends. Back to Kathmandu for departure to US or off to other destinations (e.g., Pokhara, Mustang Valley, Annapurna Circuit).
To develop this program, Pratiman-Neema Memorial Foundation (PNMF) and its affiliated institutions (PNMHI College and LCS research center) have teamed up with the University of New Mexico (UNM) faculty, and the Nepal Study Center’s Sustainable Development Action Lab Program. This study abroad program combines PNMF’s infrastructure and resources and its vast local network of local development, health and conservation experts with the UNM’s faculty expertise and NSC’s field research and rigorous academic learning experiences in Nepal.
For information about the program, time line, the community learning project specification, and the logistics involved, or for any other issues and queries please contact Professor Dr. Alok K. Bohara, University of New Mexico (firstname.lastname@example.org) and the PNMF’s Senior Program Coordinator Ms. Swati Thapa (email@example.com).