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A semester in the cultural capital of the Tibetan Government in Exile

Earlham’s semester-long Tibetan Studies program in Northern India offers combines coursework, language study, cultural immersion, contemplative practice and field research at the cultural and intellectual capital of the Tibetan Government in Exile.

Tibetan Studies Program at EarlhamBased in Dharamsala, students gain an in-depth understanding of issues associated with Tibetan refugees and study alongside Tibetan students in partnership with the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics. A highlight of the annual program is a meeting with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

“No one does a program like ours,” says Forrest Tobey, a professor of music and frequent faculty leader of the Tibetan Studies program. “Other institutions focus their programs on Buddhist studies but ours is more focused on Tibetans. The Tibetan cause is increasingly become a lost cause in most people’s minds. The media generally has stopped covering the story, even though Tibetans continue to self-immolate in protest to Chinese policy.

“This is a radical program that emphasizes social justice, but also focuses on Tibetan history and culture, provides students with opportunities to be shoulder-to-shoulder with an ongoing refugee community, living in diaspora and sustaining their culture in exile.”

During the first part of the trip, Earlhamites live with Tibetan refugees at Sarah College before embarking on homestays with Tibetan families in McLeod Ganj, the community immediately surrounding the college. During the program students participate in weekly fieldtrips, celebrate several important Tibetan and Indian holidays, and attend numerous cultural events.

Tibetan Studies is one of Earlham’s most popular off-campus programs and is resulting in strong outcomes for students who participate.

Sonia Norton ’18, a Tibetan Studies student in 2015, is currently back in India for the 2018-19 academic year as part of a teaching assignment funded by the Fulbright program, the United States’ flagship government exchange program.

“India is so diverse and huge, but I just really enjoyed the energy and experience of India,” Norton says of her experiences with the Tibetan Studies program. “I went to India before because I wanted to get more of a sense of the basis of public policy in a country that accepted refugees in a way that our country didn’t. It’s a new democracy. Now I’m looking forward to engaging more with the Indian community, not just the Tibetan Indian community.”