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Tibetan Studies: Global Health, Social Justice, and Tibetan Buddhist Culture in India

HHDL (2)

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 Tibetan Culture4 Credits (fulfills Social Science) - Students will learn the cultural and political history of Tibet leading up to and through the Chinese invasion of the 1950s, and will have opportunities to learn about and participate in aspects of Tibetan music, dance, and theatre as it has been preserved in diaspora.

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, 3 Credits (fulfills Humanities and Diversity International) - This course covers the three "vehicles" of the Buddhist tradition: the Theravadin vehicle of original Buddhism; the Mayahana ("Great Vehicle") school, with its emphasis on psychology, philosophy, compassion, and ethics; and the Vajrayana ("Diamond Vehicle") or tantric school that was uniquely transmitted to and preserved in Tibet over many centuries. A study of and participation in various Buddhist meditation techniques is an important aspect of the course.

Tibetan Medicine: Historical and Contemporary Approaches in Global Health, 4 Credits (fulfills Wellness) - The preservation and continued practice of traditional Tibetan medicine and health practices was a priority for the Tibetan community in exile. This course will examine the global health risks and challenges to the people and communities of Northern India. In doing so, traditional medical approaches will be compared to those of the Western world.

Action, Reflection, Identity and Research, 3 Credits - Students will integrate their knowledge and understanding of contemporary Tibetan culture in diaspora by volunteering at one of the many service organizations that can be found in the Dharamsala area. Students will complete an independent research project at the end of the semester, choosing a topic of Tibetan Studies that aligns with their particular area(s) of interest and engaging in intensive research on that topic, culminating in a public presentation of findings.

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 Earlham-approved 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.

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