Experiencing Nepal: Environment & Society in the Himalaya

Summer 2017
May 11 - June 11, 2017 (tentative)

Program Highlights

• Trek rugged hill trails and encounter local rural life
• Examine religious and cultural wonders in the Kathmandu Valley
• Ride elephants in search of Rhinos around Chitwan National Park
• Work with local people recovering from the devastating earthquakes of April 2015
• Learn how Nepal's unique mountain geography and environment creates cultural diversity
• Learn about environmental issues in Nepal, including air and water quality, ecotourism, and global climate change impacts and adaptation
• Understand the uneven impacts of the earthquakes of 2015, the uneven nature of relief and recovery aid, and the special challenges and consequences of such a significant disaster for Nepal
• Intercultural (IC) designation 

Program Description

This short-term education abroad experience explores some of the environmental, social, and development issues that face Nepal as one of the world's poorest countries but also one of the most diverse and ecologically important. We will examine some of the approaches to development and conservation in Nepal and survey its physical resources, policies that affect the environment, its social diversity, public health issues, and its turbulent socio-political context. We will examine the causes and implications of emerging environmental, political and social issues for the well-being of Nepal and explore the possibilities of sustainable development through eco-tourism and community forestry. In particular, we will examine some of the challenges posed by and responses to the disastrous earthquakes of 2015 and we will spend some time working on earthquake recovery through volunteer service.

Significant and seemingly intractable environmental quality problems, e.g. water pollution, solid waste disposal, air pollution, etc. also face Nepal, although these problems are concentrated mostly in Nepal's urban areas. Increasing traffic has severely polluted the city of Kathmandu, while the city's rivers have effectively become open sewers. Add to this environmental mix the human-centered uncertainty of political turmoil in Nepal associated with the elimination of the monarchy, a confused parliament and new constitution, extreme poverty, the aftermath of a bloody Maoist insurgency, and disastrous earthquakes in the Spring of 2015. What emerges is a complex, complicated, dynamic, and somewhat frightening but highly enticing human-environment nexus.

There is no other place like it on earth. This is an adventure program trekking rugged trails and working in one of the poorest countries in the world. For most students, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Students must be adaptable and willing to tolerate inconvenience and physical discomfort.

Course Information

Course Name: Experiencing Nepal: Environment & Society in the Himalaya

Course Number: ENVR 200F

Credit Number: 4

Designation: Intercultural

Program Cost

The estimated Program Fee is $3650 plus the cost of 4 CSB/SJU credits at the reduced summer tuition rate (approximately $573 per credit).

This price includes:
• Round-trip international airfare from Minneapolis to Kathmandu
• Accommodations during the program
• Local transportation
• Course related excursions including: trekking, national park admissions, cultural attractions, and other outings as outlined in the itinerary
• Program administrative costs and fees
• Group meals on extended excursions
• Visa fees

The Program Fee does not include:
• Individual meals
• Personal spending money
• Specialized, recommended equipment for the trip, e.g. hiking boots or SteriPENs
• Activities, housing or transportation not associated with or included in the program.


Accommodations will vary with location. While in Kathmandu we will stay at a tourist hotel that includes a daily breakfast buffet. While trekking and engaging in community work we will stay in a tourist lodges some nights and camp other nights, with limited access to indoor plumbing or internet. While in other locations we will stay in modern accommodations.


The program director has considerable experience in Nepal and is an expert on environmental and development issues in Nepal. The program director and instructor for this course is by Dr. Christopher Thoms, who has visited Nepal six times, the first as a Peace Corps Volunteer living and working alongside local people. As a Fulbright scholar he conducted his Ph.D. dissertation research in Nepal on international aid to community forestry. Most recently, Dr. Thoms led a group of students on a similar short-term summer program in 2013. Dr. Thoms is passionate about Nepal and its people, and looks forward to sharing that passion for this unique, beautiful country.