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A life changing J-Term abroad

Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Sara Conrad’s son posing with a monk in Dharamshala, India, something that students can experience if they go abroad.
Photo provided by Sara Conrad

It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.

That seemed to be the sentiment shared across the board with those planning to travel to Dharamshala, India for the new January Term abroad courses. 

Starting this winter, students have the opportunity to sign up for Anthropology 101, English 302 and LAS 325, along with Anthropology 305 which focuses on Buddhism, Tibetan culture and healing arts and medicine.

Despite being a new country students are able to travel to, it is not new to Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Sara Conrad, who has visited India and Tibet for 15 years for her work as an anthropologist. 

“I like to meet and interview with different women and just regular everyday mothers and talk to them about how they keep their culture alive outside of their country,” Conrad said. “These Tibetans have left Tibet in order to practice their religion more freely or get an education more freely because in Tibet they cannot do that.” 

Traveling led to her developing strong bonds with those living in Dharamshala, something that makes the experience for students going on the trip all the more exciting. 

For one, students will be staying at the campus of The Institute of Tibetan Buddhism and Dialectics with Buddhist monks. Conrad notes that the campus is located near the Himalayan Mountains, so not only do students wake up to a prayer, but also an amazing view.

Not only that, but thanks to the connections Conrad has made, students will visit places that are normally closed to the public. 

“We are going to go to the medical college and hospital but we’re also going to go to the branches of government there,” Conrad said. “We are going to see his holiness the Dalai Lama’s personal library, and we’re going to go to the Tibetan women’s association.” 

For Kiki Fisher, a junior biomedical science pre-med and interdisciplinary studies double major, what drew them to traveling to India was the educational opportunities they will get by being there. They have already started learning about Tibetan culture this year in one of Conrad’s classes and wanted to learn more. 

“Learning about all of it has made me really interested in Buddhism and especially interested in figures in it,” Fisher said. “The fact that we’re probably going to be near the Dalai Lama is mind blowing to me because there is a good chance that he’s the last valid Dalai Lama for a long time.”

In Dharamshala, Fisher and others will be able to engage with practitioners of Buddhism when the classes are taken to temples and monasteries in the area. 

Other students are using this opportunity to better understand their future career, such as junior biomedical science major Emily Everett. 

“I hope to better understand how different cultures practice medicine to be able to better serve my patients when I am a doctor,” Everett said. “I want to be able to respect and alter my way of practicing to be respectful of other cultures and their medical practices.” 

As for Conrad, she hopes students gain a new appreciation for life from their experience abroad because those who are Tibetan embed their religion into everyday life, something  many are not used to. 

“I also think that when they [students] meet Tibetans and they see how they work and live and it is all encompassing with their Buddhist ideals it gives students a perspective they’ve never ever seen before,” Conrad said. 

Registration for J-Term abroad is now open and a $500 down payment will be due by April 22 for interested students. 

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