Tucked between the economic titans India and China, Nepal is a little country that promises big adventure. From remote Buddhist monasteries in the Himalaya to the modern city of Kathmandu, the region has captured the imaginations of adventure seekers since the country opened its borders in the 1950s. Despite its natural wonders and fascinating traditions, Nepal remains off the beaten path, with only 600,000 tourists visiting each year. These lucky few discover a nation that goes way beyond multicolored prayer flags and climbing ol’ Mt. Everest.
Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing may have put Nepal on western maps, but the country truly gained popularity in the 1960s and 70s, when it became a major destination of all flower children and peaceniks on the Hippie Trail. These free spirits traveled through Europe and Asia in droves, seeking enlightenment and constantly climbing higher and higher. When they finally reached “the Roof of the World” they looked for answers in Nepal’s many ashrams and temples.
But the main draw for anyone looking to study abroad is the complexity of Nepal’s diverse regions and people. In this country the size of Arkansas, there are over 123 languages spoken. And although the monarchy was abolished in 1951, the country is still dealing with complex negotiations of democracy and technology in an ancient society. Students who choose to study abroad in Nepal will have front row seats as this country trying to strike a balance between modernization and tradition.
Study abroad programs in Nepal are based in the capital city of Kathmandu, named after the Kasthamandap, or "Wooden house” in central Durbar Square. The metropolitan area has a population of 2.5 million inhabitants—but few street signs. Instead, look for the nearest chowkor tole (intersection) to orient yourself.
A day trip to Patan is a great place to escape and bask in tradition. With more Nepali architecture per square metre than its neighbor Kathmandu, take some time to walk the streets and step back in time.
If you came to climb, head to the trekking mecca of Pokhara. Described as Disneyland for trekkers, the city nestles between a picture perfect mountain reflected in a clear icy lake. The city is an excellent jumping off point for dozens of trails, and boasts a number of interesting museums.
Social Life and Student Culture
Kathmandu is modern city has a distinctly traditional feel, where KFC rubbs shoulders with restaurants serving momo, a mouth-watering dumpling. You can choose your momo filling, either veggies, chicken or yak!
Take a few days to explore the wildlife at Chitwan National Park. On this South Asian safari you can spot endangered Asian one-horned rhinos, monkeys, and if you’re very lucky, leopards and tigers. Visitors can also help out at elephant bath time (just don’t forget your rubber ducky)!
You can also re-align your tired chakra at a yoga center. You’ll feel rejuvenated as you downward-facing dog while watching the sun rises over the Himilayas.
Tourist visas are available upon entry for a fee of $100 USD and valid for 3 months (with the possibility of extension for another 60 days). Student visas to Nepal are available for up to a year with a fee of $3,000 per year or $250 per month.
Read up! Best books on Nepal
- Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer
- The Devil's Road To Kathmandu by Tom Vater
- The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen
- The Strict Economy of Fire by Ava Leavell Haymon
- Shadow Over Shangri-La: A Woman's Quest for Freedom by Durga Pokhrel
All study abroad programs in Nepal blend adventure and academics. Students who are really looking to get outside should look for programs that emphasize field research and the hands-on approach.
- Academic Life: Programs like SIT and Where There Be Dragons offer academic courses as well as an independent study project (ISP). ISPs give students the opportunity to explore their interest outside of the classroom in everything from national identity to jewelry making.
- Language: Classes are conducted in English but programs provide intensive introductory courses in Nepali. Few people outside of government and tourism speak English, so these courses are necessary for making Nepali friends! SIT Tibet also offers classes in introductory Tibeten.
- Housing: Programs in Nepal focus on homestay experiences where students can be immersed in the day to day of life of a Nepali family. Most programs also offer a second homestay in a rural Nepali village-- which is essential to truly experience a country where less than 62% of the population has a phone.
The mountains are steep, but the costs don't have to be! Many scholarships are available to students who are interested in studying in Nepal.
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