CofC Logo

Study Abroad

Students visit China  for their summer study tour in 2013

Coming up Summer of 2016!!  Don't miss out!

Summer I session (June 1-June 28, 2016)

This study abroad program immerses students in the Himalayan culture of North India, and students will learn about environmental change, local and refugee political communities, and the religious diversity of Ladakh and Dharamsala. Although Ladakh’s rugged high desert landscape is so sparsely populated that it is often described in travel literature as “isolated,” it has actually been a crossroads for the transmission of goods and religions (including Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Christianity) for at least a thousand years. Today Ladakh is undergoing rapid social change and a “renaissance” of sorts, due in part to the rapid influx of western adventure and spiritual tourists. The first part of the program will take place in Leh, the political, religious, and tourist hub of Ladakh, which is an exciting laboratory for examining the cross-cultural encounter of western travelers, Indian tourists, Tibetan exiles, and local Ladakhis. We then travel to Dharamsala, the current home of the Dalai Lama and the seat of the Tibetan government in exile, where we will meet with Tibetan refugees and community leaders. Finally, we spend the last few days in India’s capital of Delhi, where we will visit some of India’s largest modern religious institutions, including the Bahai Lotus Temple, the Hare Krishna Temple, and the Jama Masjid. 

INTL 290/ENVT 352: International Development & Environmental Justice in the Himalaya-This course provides an overview of the key concepts, major drivers, and practical workings of international development, and introduces students to specific environmental rights issues in the Himalaya region. We’ll investigate how globalization, volontourism, and infrastructure projects impact local communities, including refugees and marginalized groups. We’ll examine responses to natural disasters and ongoing water and land use issues, and develop strategies to analyse and critique the systems and power relationships of “international development.” This course is built around two case studies: in Ladakh (post-2010 cloudburst and resulting humanitarian response), and in Dharamsala (daily life water and land for Tibetan refugees, Indian residents, and Western tourists). Students will participate in unique experiential learning activities related to these case studies, including narrative power analyses, field observation and ethnographic reflection, and digital media-making. Students will also discover how advocacy for environmental justice is shaped by class, caste, gender, and religious identities.


RELS 298: Encountering Religions and Globalization in the Indian Himalaya-This course introduces students to the religious diversity present in Ladakh and Dharamsala, where Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Chritians, and Jews all encounter each other. We will examine how globalization affects this encounter, and explore various responses to globalization including the clash of civilizations, interreligious dialogue, and how religious institutions have responded to global tourism and cosmopolitanism. We will learn how various agents—tourists, missionaries, immigrants—carry religious ideas and practices, and how macro-processes such as economic development, militarization, and religious modernization, impact the local religious landscape in the Himalayas. The class will include site visits in Ladakh to Buddhist monasteries and schools, Hindu temples, Islamic mosques, a Sikh gurudwara, a Moravian Missionary Church, Yoga and Ayurvedic healing centers, and in Delhi we will visit a Bahai temple and Hindu Hare Krishna temple. 

Previous Study Abroad Trips

The College of Charleston offers Summer Study Abroad programs and faculty have led students on trips to India and China to learn about the lived religions practiced there. In May 2009, professors Zeff Bjerken and Elijah Siegler organized the first Religious Studies summer program when they led 12 students to the northern Indian region of Ladakh to study The Himalayan Religions of Ladakh and Religion and Globalization. Modern day Ladakh is undergoing a religious rebirth or renaissance of sorts, due in part to the influx of Tibetan Buddhist refugees who recreate their cultural traditions in their adopted homeland, and the influx of western spiritual tourists. Through site visits and days spent in village guest houses, students immersed themselves in the cultural heritage of Ladakh, made fieldtrips to Muslim mosques, Moravian churches, and Buddhist monasteries, trekked to sacred caves and pilgrimage sites and examined trends in western spiritual tourism.

Professor Siegler also led a group of students to China in summer 2009. This study tour was a multidisciplinary introduction to religion and tourism management. Siegler taught a course that examined the most significant religious trends in contemporary China, with day trips, guided tours to temples and museums and visits to historic sites like the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven. 

In June 2011, four students spent 16 jam-packed days studying in religion in China, in particular Daoism. They studied Confucian classics in a Confucian Academy and read sutras in a Tibetan Buddhist temple, ate delicious dumplings and street food, took long walks through historic neighborhoods, explored the Beijing subway system, discussed the power of the state while standing in Tiananmen Square, and went out at night with a local journalism student‹and that was just the first day!  Later they joined up with a private tour led by renowned scholar of Daoism Dr. Livia Kohn to explore deeply the mythology of Laozi, while climbing Daoist mountains, and meeting Daoists of various sorts‹including American disciples, urban hermits, and millionaire patrons!

In June 2013, Professors Siegler and Piotr Gibas (Asian Studies) will lead another trip to China. The program will begin in Beijing, then travel to the ancient capital of Xi’an, followed by Chengdu, birthplace of spicy food and Taoism, and then travel to the province of Yunnan, with its beautiful weather and tribal cultures. The program will end in Shanghai. For more information check out our China trip flyer


Elijah Siegler with students in India in 2009.

Other study abroad opportunities can be pursued for a semester or an entire academic year. The College of Charleston has bilateral exchange agreements with academic institutions around the world. These exchanges allow students to study for a semester or an academic year at a partner institution while still paying their College of Charleston tuition. Normally, all financial aid applies. There are two universities in the United Kingdom and one university in Japan that have very good religious studies and theology programs that a few religious studies majors have participated in:

The religious studies department also has an informal affiliation with the Brooklyn-based Global College Comparative Religion & Culture Program, which offers an intensive, 30-week series of lectures, workshops and field trips that introduce students to the religions and cultures of Taiwan, Thailand, India and Turkey.

There are also a number of independent study abroad programs (unaffiliated with the College) that offer courses in religious studies. Some of the most popular programs include:

Students who have participated in the above programs have received credit that they applied to their major or minor degree requirements in religious studies at the College. For more information about study abroad opportunities, see: