Anthropology Term Abroad in Nepal – Winter Semester 2016

Faculty Organizer: Jeff Witsoe (Anthropology);

In winter term of 2016, Prof. Witsoe will lead an anthropology term abroad in Nepal, the Himalayan kingdom that is now a transitional democracy.  The term is open to students of all majors. The term will introduce students to the process of doing anthropological research, and the cultures of the Himalayas, as well as giving students hands-on experience in international or local NGOs, schools and community-based development projects. Students will get three anthropology credits in Nepal (Intensive Nepali, Contemporary Nepal and Ethnographic Research).

This is not a term recommended for students who are unwilling to move outside of their comfort zones. But for those who are, Nepal will be an unforgettable experience. Students will be immersed in the local culture. The bulk of the term will be spent on hands-on ‘ethnographic’ research. Anthropologists feel that it is important to live with members of another culture and to be actively involved in their day-to-day life. To truly understand how people see the world, you must ‘walk in their shoes,’ ideally through participating in a venture of common interest together. Students will learn this method both through living with Nepalese families and through working with organizations and community-based projects to gain a thorough appreciation of the social and cultural forces that shape everyday life in Nepal.

The term will be conducted in collaboration with the Cornell-Nepal Study Program, a joint program established in 1993 by Cornell University and Tribhuvan University—the national university of Nepal. You will be partnered with a Nepalese student who will embark on this journey with you. After an initial orientation week based in the medieval town of Kirtipur, on the edge of the Kathmandu Valley and adjacent to the national Tribhuvan University campus, students will be placed with individual host families in Kathmandu, the bustling capital and center of Nepal’s politics and economy.

The courses are designed to introduce you to the culture, social conditions, and ways of living in Nepal. The term abroad will prompt you more generally to become familiar with the process of conducting anthropological research and of gaining the ability to understand other ways of life and to place these within the broader context of cultural, political and social conditions shaping local conditions.


  • An overall cumulative average of 2.5 at the time of application.
  • Certification by the Dean of Students that the student is well prepared to participate in foreign study.
  • Be in good academic standing and have a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5 for the term prior to the program.
  • It is highly recommended that the students take at least one anthropology course before going to Nepal; this can be taken after being accepted into the term. Qualitative Methods (ANT 363), Contemporary India (ANT 280) and Anthropology of Poverty (ANT 210) are good choices.

Introducing Nepal

Home to Mount Everest and eight of the highest mountains in the world, Nepal has long been considered a remote and mysterious place of startling natural beauty. The Himalayan kingdom of Nepal was more or less closed off to the outside world prior to the 1950s, adding to this mystique. Nepal is home to a large community of Tibetan refuges and has vibrant religious traditions that often merge Hinduism and Buddhism. In recent decades Nepal has witnessed dramatic change. This has included the birth of a tourist industry that has become the mainstay of the national economy. It has also included the end of the monarchy and a contentious and ongoing transition to democracy. But with much of its population spread across remote and difficult to access villages, Nepal remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Responding to this, Kathmandu has a large community of international development practitioners and human rights activists. This combination of factors makes Nepal a unique site for an anthropology term abroad. While Nepal’s tourist industry provides security and facilities for visitors, one does not have to venture far off the beaten track to experience other worlds – at times feeling that time has stood still, at other times that one is witnessing history in the making. This term is especially suited for students interested in immersive cultural experience, political change, global poverty, international development, sustainability and human rights.