Nepal (SIT)

SLU students who are interested in Nepalese culture will have the opportunity to study abroad in Nepal with the School for International Training (SIT) on the Tibetan and Himalayan Peoples program. The program offers instruction in Tibetan and Himalayan politics and religion as well as the issues faced by communities in exile. Students explore cultural transformation and preservation, identity and social change, religious revival, and regional geopolitics.

  • Based in Kathmandu, Nepal
  • Spring or Fall semester
  • Space may be limited to only 3 students due to the small nature of the program which draws from many different universities (A backup option is encouraged).
  • Pre-requisites: 3.0 GPA and; one Asian Studies course OR another course that specifically prepares the student for study on this academic program.
  • Live in homestays

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Location     Academics     Co-Curricular     Housing     Calendar     Orientation      Program Contacts


The program is based in Kathmandu, Nepal, and may travel to Bhutan, China (Tibet), and India.

Kathmandu has long been a major center and intersection for Nepal's history, art, culture and economy. It has a multiethnic population and a Hindu and Buddhist majority, with various religious and cultural festivities filling the calendar. Touri​sm is an important part of the economy as the city is the gateway to the Nepalese Himalayas. It is the capital city of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, the largest Himalayan state in Asia. It is the largest metropolis in Nepal, with a population of 2 million in the city proper, and 6 million in its urban agglomeration across the Kathmandu Valley, which includes the towns of Lalitpur, Kirtipur, Madhyapur Thimi, and Bhaktapur. Kathmandu is also the largest metropolis in the Himalayan hill region.

The city stands at an elevation of approximately 1,400 meters (4,600 feet) above sea level in the bowl-shaped Kathmandu Valley of central Nepal. People who live outside the valley have historically referred to the Kathmandu Valley itself as "Nepal", and it has been the home of Newar culture, a cosmopolitan urban civilization in the Himalayan foothills. The city was the royal capital of the Kingdom of Nepal and hosts palaces, mansions and gardens of the Nepalese aristocracy.

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Key Topics of Study

  • Varieties of belief and practice among Himalayan people

  • History and politics of the region

  • Himalayan arts and sciences

  • Schools of Tibetan Buddhism, Newar and Theravadin Buddhist traditions in Nepal

  • Religious tourism and pilgrimage

  • Meditation and retreat

Students are required to enroll in 5 courses, 

  • Religious Change in Tibet and the Himalaya 

  • The Politics of Tibetan and Himalayan Borders

  • Beginning Tibetan 

  • Field Methods and Ethics

  • Either the Independent Study Project or Internship and Seminar

Departmental designation at SLU for these courses are :

Field Methods and Ethics: Anthropology

Beginning Tibetan: Language

Independent Study Project: Anthropology

Religious Change in Tibet and the Himalaya: Religious Studies 2XX, Elective

The Politics of Tibetan and Himalayan Borders: Government 3XX Special Topics, Major/Minor

In the Independent Study Project (ISP), students conduct primary research in Tibetan and Himalayan communities in Nepal or other locations. Students may also do their ISP research in Dharamsala or elsewhere in India. The program maintains a branch base in Dharamsala with an experienced staff member. The ISP allows students to apply their experience-based learning in the Field Methods and Ethics course and interdisciplinary coursework on a topic they choose.

SIT internships are hands-on and reflective. In addition to completing the internship, students submit a paper processing their learning experience on the job and analyzing an issue important to the organization they worked with, and/or they design a socially responsible solution to a problem identified by the organization.

Sample internships:

  • Helping students from a remote Himalayan community through Action Dolpo

  • Assisting Great Himalaya Trail’s alternative approach to trekking

  • Providing Tibetan and Himalayan youth with vocational training and job placements with Himalayan Roots to Fruits

  • Working at Nepali Times, the leading English-language weekly newspaper in Kathmandu

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Excursions may include:

  • The Tibetan Autonomous Region in the People’s Republic of China (conditions permitting)

  • Tibetan or Tibeto-Burman speaking communities in Nepal outside the Kathmandu Valley such as Pokhara or Solu Khumbu

  • Tibetan settlements in India such as Bir, Darjeeling, Dharamsala, Kalimpong, Ladakh, or Mussorie

A high-altitude hike is usually included, in order to visit more isolated communities. Comfortable hiking shoes and appropriate clothing are strongly recommended on this physically strenuous trek. Appropriate camping gear can be acquired at affordable prices in Kathmandu.

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Students live with a host family in Kathmandu for six weeks, sharing in daily activities, larger family gatherings, and cultural events. Through the homestay, students have the opportunity to practice language skills and learn local manners, customs, and traditions. Students usually become very close with their homestay family. Students also stay in high-altitude rural homes while on excursion, for a few days at a time, usually in groups of two or three. Other accommodations include guest houses, hostels, educational institutions, and/or small hotels. The group may camp on Himalayan treks.

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See SIT's website for program dates. The Fall semester usually begins in early September and ends in mid-December. The Spring semester usually begins in early February and ends in mid/late May.

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Pre-departure: The CIIS office organizes in-depth orientation sessions on-campus prior to the students' participation in the program. This includes a program-specific session(s) in which the students will learn more about the program, local culture, academic expectations, and other important information. There is also an orientation session led by the CIIS office on culture shock as well as safety and security while abroad. Students will also participate in an online orientation provided by SIT.

On-site: Upon arrival in Nepal, students have a local orientation in which they will learn about cultural norms, get practical advice, and begin to learn how to navigate the city. 

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Program Contacts

If you are interested in learning more about the Nepal program please contact one of the following people.

CIIS Office: Kim Longfellow, Assistant Director of Off-Campus Programs- Questions about eligibility, program logistics, and other off-campus opportunities.

Faculty CoordinatorDr. David Henderson - Questions about program academics.

Apply to study in Nepal

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