tibet/darjeeling, india

Oct 21st, 2005, 09:01 AM
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tibet/darjeeling, india

I just posted this by accident on europe/ so posting here too. Anyone been Tibet/Darjeeling, India recently and if so, how about for a college student (male, 20) for semester abroad. My son is choosing his options, and while we traveled in europe since he was young, and he has done trips there w/ friends, wondering about Tibet as a choice vs. scotland or england.

Last time this program ran, they were taken out of Tibet and to Darjeeling, india (where the Darjeeling part comes in as a maybe, maybe not depending on if they can stay in Tibet). Am I being over-cautious mom? I thought Scotland/England would also give him more opportunities to train to other locations during the semester/ and wonder if Tibet experience is something he'd get "more out of" with a little more life experience and maturity and shoudl consider saving for later trip/grad school. I did check USState/gov web site for travel warnings, but wanted to hear from anyone who has actually been. any thoughts welcomed.
escargot is offline  
Oct 21st, 2005, 01:07 PM
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My husband and I have just sat on this option for our 18 year old daughter who is starting a gap year. The reasons
1. She was going to have to wait in Chengdu for approx 4 days for a visa .
2.The altitude in Lhasa is far in excess of anything she has ever experienced before.
3.I understand that the hospital facilities in Lhasa are primitive.
4. Modern medical care involves leaving the country and if you have entered on a group visa(which you may not have much choice about) then leaving alone may not be trouble free.
We felt that the potential for giref for an 18 year old girl travelling alone was great and for those reasons have said no to this trip.
Frances is offline  
Oct 21st, 2005, 01:55 PM
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thank you so much for your reply. Many of the same things I worried about - and yes, it would have to be a group visa I believe. I was not also added about altitude, although never been that high, he is an active/outdoor/hiker/climber but never near that height I don't believe. While he wouldn't be alone, and would be w/ group, that still doesn't negate the health services/problem areas even a group would have trouble negotiating. thanks. My husband and I are also leaning towards a no, hoping he will not be too disappointed and look at it for a possible future trip. I know anything can happen anywhere (his trip w/ friends to Madrid and Barcelone was instead of a trip to Columbia b/c of concerns, and yes, during his strip is when the Madrid bombing happened. Oh, so omuch for moms to worry about today.
escargot is offline  
Oct 21st, 2005, 03:05 PM
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My daughter is currently doing her semester abroad in India. When she was deciding between Italy and India, I asked her which one she thought she could more easily visit on her own, and of course it was Italy. Anyone can go spend a summer there; to live in Idia for four months on your own would be a whole different story.

This is not to say it was easy for us to let her go. The program takes the kids to different towns and cities all over India. It's a long way from Hawaii, and medical care, sanitation, communication and saftey were all concerns. In addition, she is a tiny, female, and only 20 years old.

We asked a lot of questions of her school though, nnd in the end felt it was one of those life experiences that are well worth the risks involved.

One of the good things about her program is that this trip is put on by her college. They made all the arrangenments, the professors are employees of her college,and all the kids had a preparatory class together last spring. Many semester abroad programs are endorsed by the American colleges, but are actually run by other companies. I felt that her college has a more compelling interest that everything goes well wlith their own kids and employees.

the good news is that I ended up spending 10 days in India with her before her classmates arrived. I got to experience India, and more importantly, know a little about where she is. We also bought her an Indian cell phone- it gave us a little security knowing she could call for delp, directions or even call us on occasion.

She's having a wonderful time. So far, she's been in Delhi, Bangalore, Varanasi, Dera Dhun, Sikkim and is only half way done! And yes, she did get quite sick for a few days, but had good medical care and only told us about it was she was better!

Just do your homework on the program. If it seems reasonably well supervised and run, I'd give him the opportunity.
lcuy is offline  
Oct 21st, 2005, 11:05 PM
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Oops should have proofed my above post-we got DD a phone so that she could call for "help"..

She just called from an internet cafe in Bangalore. I asked her about Darjeeling as she just came from there on Wednesday. She said it is really a nice place and would be nice to go to school there!
lcuy is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2005, 06:32 AM
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Just out of curiousity, could one of the "moms" tell us more about these programs? What do the students do there? Is the option available to all or do you have to be studying something in particular? Weasel words coming now - but what is the objective, what are the course outcomes supposed to be? Do all students on the course go?

Hope someone can enlighten me.
fuzzylogic is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2005, 07:53 AM
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Here are some pictures of Darjeeling taken by a Caltech professor who went to India with his family for a 6-months stay.


agtoau is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2005, 02:26 PM
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Fuzzylogic: Well, for my son (original post) he is currently a sophomore at college; he has an option of study abroad for one semester. At his college, you can choose from x amount of possibilities depending on your major. Environmental majors, say, have choices like Costa Rica, Equador, etc, all in diffferent environments; at his school, if you want to go to France, you have eto either be a french major or french literature, or prove going to France will directly benefit your major (in other words, you can't just say I'm a Spanish major, but I choose Australia b/c it would be fun to see it; instead you have to choose Spain, or somewhere spanish is spoken, o r somehow relate it to your major. My son is a philosophy major; he was advised his best options for approval would be Tibet (which sometimes gets sent to India instead depending on what is going on in Tibet safety-wise; or Oxford, or a university in Scotland; he could apply for any of his schools programs, but would have to prove what that location/college had that would help him as a philosophy major- a specific program, or cultural experience. The Tibet program isn't runby his school, but as is often the case at colleges, they can apply thru other colleges that have made agreements to accept kids from other schools; this Tibet program is run through Pritzer college.
Some students choose to never to a study abroad; maybe b/c of their sports or other interests, or do a semester at another school in the US that allows student visitors for a semester. My daughter did not, b/c she didn't really see where it was necessary for her major and chose to do a summer program somewhere one summer instead. My son, as a philosophy major has studied greek philosophy, indian philosophy/ etc and is interested in studying/experiencing abroad for a semester.
Exposure to different culture, teaching methods, academic ,m cultural, social, etc.
I am just worried about Tibet, being that things can change there so suddenly. And I know today something could happen anywhere; but does that mean you go where you already know things are difficult and sometimes US can't help; like on the US State Dept page when it lists some countries and says that, basically, if you get in a jam there or something happens, you can't count on us to help,intervene or basically don't even call us there is no embassy there. Not that I think I can always count on US state Dept or embassy under unimaginable circumstances, but going to a country in flux when you know it is, and doesn't have certain legal, health available as a mother would like, then that is why I was inclined to say no to Tibet and pick one of your other choices, and save it for later . I go back and forth, b/c I also know things could happen anytime, anywhere.....but Tibet seems so remote and .....worrisome. He wouldn't be alone, but with a group from Pritzer and other colleges, but if something terrible happens, I don't think the teacher would be able to dictate governmental policy w/ the Chinese, Tibet, etc if they go in a jam or had visa delays, etc. So I was looking to see if anyone else had studied in Tibet.
Plus, in the other countries, even India, there is easier contact possibilities by phone/cell/internet - but I am doubting they have cell towers and internet in Tibet. ?
escargot is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2005, 02:28 PM
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and lcuy: I'd be more inclined to go with India, but that is only where they would go if they were forced to leave Tibet, which has happened before to this group. One year, it was cancelled altogether and they were suddenly going to India instead. So that is another reason I would rather have him go somewhere with smaller possiblity of changes.
escargot is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2005, 02:39 PM
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agtoau: the photos were lovely.

and just so I don't sound like a mom who worries so much he never gets to do exciting trips/ he did hike for 3 wks this summer in S Korea/ started in Seoul and then hiked all through various mountains, national parks, photos and research at many temples/religious sites/ but this was with a friend his age who roomed w/ him at school and is from Korea so I did feel some comfort in the fact he spoke the language fluently and had hiked for many years in his country........so it's not like I never let him out of my sight Maybe I just don't know enough about Tibet, which is why I asked for help!
escargot is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2005, 07:03 PM
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Well, I'm going to offer an opinion here.

I have studied Tibetan culture and a bit of their philosophy, even tho I've never been to Tibet because of getting sick from rarified atmosphere (found out in a bad way while hiking in Nepal).

Your son, if he is really into philosophy, is in for a great treat. The journey for his mind will be infinitely more exciting in Tibet than anything he will experience elsewhere - i.e., depending on who's teaching - and what.

Tibetan Buddhistic philosophy is among the most profound philosophies in existence. There are many translators, but my recollection is that Edward Conze did some wonderful work in this area.

To give you one example: most statements about the universe about us is in statements of "it is" or "it is not" [President Bush is a good guy. President Bush is not a good buy. The sky is blue. The water is/not drinkable. etc]. Buddhistic philosophy poses two other possibilities: "it both is and is not" and "it neither is nor is not". I'm not a philosophy major, so all my life I've had trouble wrapping my mind around the latter two concepts to get to a stage where I could really grasp their meaning.

So, if your son is going to Tibet to study philosophy, Tibet would be the better choice - IF the Chinese allow Tibetan philosophy to be taught at all in Tibet.

So, I'd suggest that you look into the course of study. He might get better professors at Oxford. After all, he's going for course work and that should take priority in consideration.

As for the other considerations, the program probably has some kind of provision for health, otherwise, it would not be going to Tibet. Inquire what the health provisions are for this trip.

And Tibet, IMHO, is not "in flux" - it is under a terrible Chinese dictatorship - but that's another discussion.
easytraveler is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2005, 08:42 PM
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easy traveler: thank you for all your thoughts and information; and as far as
" And Tibet, IMHO, is not "in flux" - it is under a terrible Chinese dictatorship - but that's another discussion." - I realize that, I just was trying to avoid making this post become a political discussion like I see happen sometimes; I agree with you, and why Tibet isn't left alone to continue being the peaceful people they are I don't know, and I couldn't guess what will happen next over there which concerns me for the Tibetan people and and also for my son, b/c no one can really promise what is going to happen over there on any given day.

Yet, - you are right about the Tibetan/Buddhist philosphy learning experience, which is why I hate to deny him this, but still wonder if not better when he himself is a bit older and wiser and a bit further in his philosophy studies, - and perhaps had a chance to study it for a while before going for four months; and knowing more about other philosophies and religions to appreciate the entire experience more. he just declared this major at end of his freshmen year, and is only a first semester sophomore, which is why I was thinking, study some more about philosophy before you go the place where I've heard it is the most difficult to 'understand' and maybe then you'll be more prepared to absorb/learn/wrap your mind around everything.

And the health provisions, contracts, thru the college are all well and good; but they all still have you sign that they won't promise you anything and that you are going into an area where things change quickly and be prepared to have it cancelled in which case they will go to India instead. Ahhhh,, this is when I miss them being small - it was easier then - things were more clear for decisions - I want everything for him and yet I want two things - his safety and for when he goes, for him to get the most out of it. I still have a few weeks to decide, so I am continuing my research on this end. But THANK you and if you think of anything else, re post !
escargot is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2005, 01:21 AM
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Thank you, escargot, for your informative reply. Appreciated.

Now, re your original question. One thing you said really struck home with me - "wonder if Tibet experience is something he'd get "more out of" with a little more life experience and maturity and shoudl consider saving for later trip/grad school."

I'm as sure as I can be that that is true. Tibet is a very harsh environment. Llasa is about as far from being like a western city as it is possible to be. I suspect a lot of the energies of very young westerners spending time there will be chanelled into berating the lack of this and that.

If your son is totally committed to learning about Tibetan Buddhism then fine. But if the idea is something he has only recently come across - maybe best to leave it for later.

Also, of course, it is an occupied country and the sensitivities of the Chinese are a factor.

Is it possible to opt for Darjeeling as a first choice?

I just remember me at 20, and my trips to Tibet and Darjeeling much later in life.

Best wishes.
fuzzylogic is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2005, 02:39 AM
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agtoau- thanks for the great link! I didn't realize that Darjeeling was so "Tibetan". It was interesting to see that carroms are popular there...Our family loved playing when I was a child, and I still have our two carrom boards!

Fuzzylogic- My daughter's school encourages all students to do a semester, year or summer abroad. They have programs in countries all over the world and with different subjects. The students apply to each program and some of them are very competitive.

Some of the programs are hardcore academic-like the business programs in Sydney and the art history program in Italy. Others like the India semester one are more cultural. She'll receive social studies, religion and history credits.

They did a lot of reading prior to the trip and spend much of their time with Indian guest speakers and on 'field trips'. The kids have tests and write lots of papers.

As she is an engineering student, this semester will not advance her career, but will take care of her elective credits. It also gives her and her classmates an opportunity to see how life is outside of the US.

Since her school is geared to allow year long study abroad, she will do spring semester at Columbia Univ in NYC. That semester she'll focus on math classes. Not quite as life changing as India, but a visit to a different culture nonetheless!
lcuy is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2005, 11:00 AM
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I don't think that 20 is too early for exploring the philosophies of other cultures; in fact, it may be too late - LOL!

You know your son best - is this interest in philosophy just a passing phase or has he shown early signs of being a very contemplative, deep - thinker? If it's a passing phase, then leaving Tibet, India, etc. for a more "mature" time is a great suggestion. But...if he is really into philosophy, then he should be allowed the opportunity to explore as widely as he can.

BTW, congratulations to both you and your son for having such sound values as not to seek just pleasure or monetary gain.

You asked for more thoughts, so here are a few. Just MHO, not anything deep.

Religious philosophy or philosophy having some mixture of religion is very different East vs. West. The three dominant Western (or Middle Eastern) religions, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are all monotheistic. This has sometimes created a gigantic struggle, especially when the religious philsophers (and i'm thinking mostly of Christian philosophers at the moment) have to deal with the earlier Greek and Roman philosophers who came from polytheistic and/or secular premises. Even Einstein wrote two articles titled "Science and God" and "God and Science" - with God being in the singular. A lot of times, it's been this kind of Faith vs Reason struggle in the West.

The religions of the Indian subcontinent, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, are essentially polytheistic.

I love the story Joseph Campbell told in one of his TV episodes about the god, Indra: Indra was a very proud god and very proud of his fine palace and fine gardens. One day he was walking in his gardens and admiring the flowers and plants when he met an old gardener. As Indra approached the old gardener, a parade of ants passed before them. "What are these?" Indra asked the old gardener, who replied: "Former Indras - all."

In the story is not just a lesson on the downfall of pride, but also the suggestion of an infinity of worlds - more worlds than anyone could imagine.

It is this mind-expanding, smashing of artificial invisible barriers which we set up ourselves that is so engaging - for me.

I'm not comparing religions or philosophies, being much too ignorant of the finer aspects of eastern and western thought to be able to do that. I'm just suggesting that great mind adventures await your son if he is truly deeply into philosophy. The journey of the mind can be equally or more exciting than the physical journey through space to different countries.

To return to the more mundane: I believe that when the school is talking about "flux" and "change", it is talking about everyday things and not about the political situation. Things in China - and I am including Tibet in this term - are moving so rapidly that nothing remains permanent for long. A train schedule that exists today may not exist tomorrow. So, today the school program plans to be in Tibet, but who knows what will happen tomorrow? The dorm rooms may not become available, the teachers all get sick from drinking too much yak butter tea, etc., so the program falls back to Darjeeling.

Lots of people travel to India and get sick, lots of people travel to China and get sick - one of my family members was in London in a summer study program when the terrorists struck. I guess what I'm trying to say is that - if, through your careful study (and you ARE doing a lot of careful study - good for you!), you find that there is adequate protection, health coverage, etc. - then let go, if he is so motivated. Frankly, I'd be more concerned if he were going to Bali instead of Tibet.

My main concern would be the dominant reason why he is going there: will he receive an invaluable education by going? Will the program give him a mind-expanding experience?

Good luck to you and your son - however he chooses! And my apologies for the typos, the poor grammar and the incomplete expressions!

Just a few random thoughts,
easytraveler is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2005, 09:11 PM
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Thanks to all of you for taking the time to give great advice, good thoughts and support. Yes, Easytraveler, he started out as a possible environmental major, which is way we thought he would go; he had always worked/interned summers doing research on threatened species, environment, etc but during first year of college became more interested in philosophy and was always the child more interested in the discussion, the listening, the quiet negotiator....loved his high school and college courses in ethics and now has taken greek philosophy, indian philosophy, etc.
He would truly prefer India over Scotland or England. He has the option of signing straight on for Darjeeling, and is wiling to do that and save Tibet for another time.....we are seeing him next week and he is compiling all the info. I told him to appease his mother and get the forms for both India and Scotland and we will look them over.
I will keep researching..... he has yet to show any interest in "monetary" gain route - he is more interested in what makes people people, and was always the one interested in having everyone get along - always the one teachers said they placed in certain team projects b/c they knew he could get everyone to 'get along' - so all I've heard from teachers since day one is hmmm, we have a minister here, or a negotiator, human resources, or a teacher.....even in church school (we are unitarian) the minister would say "what a thinker- he always goes beyond the easy answer" - so.....I would not be surprised if philosophy major sticks.
And the last thing I want to do is squelch his interest..... I welcome any other info on Darjeeling and info from anyone who has been - and I'll keep you posted ! thanks again.
escargot is offline  
Oct 25th, 2005, 12:43 PM
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escargot: your son sounds like a wonderfully intelligent and sensitive young man, a true treasure! We need more people like him in this world!

yes, please keep us posted on what his/your final decision will be!
easytraveler is offline  
Nov 4th, 2005, 11:06 AM
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Update: the abroad program my 20 yr old college son is interested in has decided it will happen in Darjeeling - it is a four month stay. Three months Darjeeling/ one month with a family stay in the remote farming hills. He is coming home tomorrow with all info for us to look over. So we are still undecided. Out of my comfort level here, since I've never been. So while I look over the info and evaluate, re-posting in case anyone new sees and wants to add some info/advice/thoughts on Darjeeling and their experiences. Thanks !
escargot is offline  
Nov 4th, 2005, 03:36 PM
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Darjeeling is a charming Indian hill station, created by the British for them to escape city heat when they were ruling India. It has a lovel toy train connection which is itself a heritage thing - part of the Himalayan Rail Foundation. I think your son will ahve an amazing experience and can even spend some time exploring India after. It is a safe part of India. You could even think of joining him for a few days - one of my favourite hotels in India is located in Darjeeling - The Windamere - www.windamere.com. I'd say he will gain a lot from the experience. Darjeeling is well connected by road, rail, has internet, cell hpone connectivity so you can stay in touch with him. The largest metro city nearby is probably Calcutta tho Delhi might be euqidistant in terms of air travl time.
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