Tibetan Studies Program, Academics | Earlham College Skip to Content

Tibetan Studies Program in Dharamsala, Northern India

Dalai -lama -ec -students -2015

Based in Dharamsala, India, this program is designed to offer a unique opportunity to live and study in a rich and complex cross-cultural setting. Dharamsala is home to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the seat of the Government in Exile, as well as the cultural and intellectual capital of the Tibetan exile community. Students will gain an in-depth understanding of a community in exile and issues associated with Tibetan refugees. They will experience and engage in the challenges and possibilities that confront the Tibetan community which is striving to preserve traditional cultural values and identity in the context of globalization.

The Earlham program works with the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics (IBD) to create a semester of rigorous academic work, language study, cultural immersion, contemplative practice, and field research. The IBD was established by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1973 and is a prestigious center for advanced studies and practice. IBD provides the teachers and lecturers for the program. Students will attend classes at the Sarah Campus of IBD and will have an opportunity to experience the daily life of the Tibetan community in Dharamsala.


Dharamsala is located in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas. With numerous Buddhist temples, monasteries and leading meditation teachers in residence, Dharamsala attracts thousands of visitors, pilgrims, world leaders as well as university students and scholars of Tibetan Buddhism who go to hear the Dalai Lama’s public teaching as well as to conduct research.

Living Arrangements

During the first part of the program students will live with Tibetan roommates while on the Sarah campus and will take most meals in the cafeterias. During the second part of the program students will live with Tibetan families in McLeod Ganj, the community immediately surrounding the IBD. During the program students participate in weekly fieldtrips, celebrate several important Tibetan and Indian holidays, and attend numerous cultural events.


Click here to apply online for the Tibetan Studies Program.

Courses and Credits

Tibetan History and Culture4 Credits
In this class, students will learn Tibetan history and learn about and experience Tibetan cultural expressions, including visual and performing arts. 

Tibetan Language 1014 Credits
This course is intended as an introduction to modern spoken and written Tibetan. By the end of the course, students will be able to understand and speak colloquial Tibetan at the novice level, write the classical dbu can script and read simple passages. 

Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy and Practice4 Credits
This course covers the fundamentals of Buddhism and more advanced explorations of Mahayana psychology, philosophy, and ethics.

Independent Research Project: Selected Topics, 2 Credits
This course allows students to explore a particular Tibetan Studies-related topic and ends with a major paper. 

A Mathematical Exploration of Tibet, 4 Credits, taught by Julie Beier
Mathematics is a way of knowing and examining the world. In this course, we seek to use it to explore a variety of issues related to Tibet. We will use mathematics to explore political issues and to understand other cultural expressions such as mandalas and local art. Prior mathematical knowledge is neither required nor assumed.

Pre-Departure Course and Post-Return Course

Students accepted to the Tibetan Studies Program are required to participate in Cross-Cultural Explorations - Pre (1 credit) prior to departure and Cross-Cultural Explorations - Post (1 credit) after they return. Pre-departure sessions are designed to prepare students for the cross-cultural experience and will include readings, activities, films, lectures, and discussions with former participants of the program. A weekend retreat is part of this course. Students and parents will receive a Handbook of important information prior to the program. Following return to campus, students will participate in a 7-week course that will guide them in processing, analyzing and building upon their off-campus experience. Credit for Cross-Cultural Explorations - Pre is dependent upon successful completion of the semester program.



The program will cost the same as one semester of on-campus charges, tuition, fees, room and board. The program covers academic and educational costs, and includes required field excursions and other group activities as well as room and board while on the academic portion of the program. Students on financial aid may apply their aid to one Earlham or GLCA-recognized off-campus program during their college career.

Additional Costs Including Travel

Each student should plan for additional money to cover round-trip airfare, personal expenses such as passport and books, visa application, and all costs for the independent travel period. Passport and visa are required for travel to India.


Undergraduate students in good standing with the College may apply. Students on academic probation are not eligible to participate. A student’s eligibility for this program may also be affected by being placed on disciplinary probation. Majors from all disciplines are welcome. Selection will be conducted by a student and faculty committee.

Print Friendly and PDF