Photo credit: Michael Broderick
Students visit the Taj Mahal during a summer study tour to Northern India in 2009
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.
Photo credit: Crystal Dively
Students sit in the lap of the Sage a summer study tour to China in 2011
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:
- Bath Spa University offers a “Study of Religions” curriculum to international students.
- The University of Nottingham offers courses in Theology and Religious Studies.
- Kansai Gadai University has an Asian Studies program with religious studies courses
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:
- Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE)
- Semester at Sea
- School for International Training (SIT)
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: