This Summer’s Tibet Abroad
For more than half a century now, Principia College students have traveled to all corners of the globe to learn on-site about the history, culture, geography, and commerce of nations as different as France and Japan, Peru and Nepal. While many colleges and universities offer abroad programs, Principia’s approach is truly unique. Abroads are designed as integrated, multidisciplinary learning experiences and are led by College faculty who travel with students throughout the trip. Each group is a learning community accompanied by a resident counselor, who assists with logistics and provides support. Principia study abroad and field programs (which take place within the U.S.) are designed with six learning themes in mind: spiritual development, character development, cultural competence, global context, citizenship, and contextual learning.
In early May, abroad groups returned from Peru and Europe. Another group is currently in Tibet, where they are travelling with Professor John Williams, of the Political Science Department and Asian Studies Program, and Professor Linda Bohaker, who is serving as the resident counselor. Williams e-mailed about the group’s experience: “I am thrilled with the diversity and depth of contact we have had thus far with the Tibetan people. We have been able to meet and talk with monks, nuns, students, and shopkeepers. We have also visited farms, monasteries, nunneries, and markets. Each student has an original field research project requiring interaction with Tibetans from all levels of society.”
Tibet is an autonomous region of the People’s Republic of China, though many Tibetans turn to the Dalai Lama—in exile in India—instead of the Tibetan government for spiritual and secular guidance. This situation provides varied opportunities for historical, political and cultural research. Topics students are studying include economic change, religious freedom for women, the use of solar power across the Tibetan plateau (conducted by a student who is on Principia’s solar car team), the use of social media among Tibetan students and monks (conducted by a student who is now an active user of WeChat, or Wēixìn in Chinese, which means “micro message”), the status of nomads, the survival of traditional Tibetan music, and the preservation of monasteries and historic sites.
“Our group quickly bonded as a family,” Williams adds. “Every few days we take time to debrief what we are learning. We have daily metaphysical sharing and Bible Lesson reading, and hold our own church services. We are having fun learning about each other, growing in grace, and fostering character development while we connect with the Tibetan people.”
This fall, abroad groups will travel to Prague, in the Czech Republic, and to Greece and Turkey. During 2014, students will study in Russia, Spain, and England. Visit www.principiacollege.edu/abroads for program descriptions.