Associate Professor of Religious Studies Geoff Barstow leads a interdisciplinary study abroad program to the Rangjung Yeshé Institute in Kathmandu

Three students in Kathmandu

Credit: Geoff Barstow

By Jessica Florescu, CLA Student Writer - April 5, 2024

For many students, studying abroad can be a great opportunity to travel and explore different cultures around the globe, while at the same time still receiving the college credits needed to help complete their degrees. Although there are many different programs available to students who are looking to study abroad, a new philosophy-related program in Nepal uniquely stands out. Geoff Barstow, an associate professor in the School of History, Philosophy, and Religion, leads the annual study abroad program to Kathmandu, Nepal, each winter quarter. 

“For the students who go, they get to have a very in-depth experience in a place that is culturally very different,” said Barstow.  

Students attend the Rangjung Yeshé Institute, an organization that has been teaching Buddhism to western students for almost twenty years. Trained monks lead Buddhist Philosophy teachings, complemented by classes with western scholars. Students also have the opportunity to take courses on Buddhist history and Nepalese religion, as well as meditation with an acclaimed meditation master. But perhaps most importantly, students are immersed in Tibetan Buddhist life. 

“Students who have participated in this program describe life changing experiences that impacted the way that they think about the world and broadened their cultural awareness and understanding,” said Barstow. “Many have even returned to Nepal after graduation to reconnect with their homestay families.”

Classes are held on the grounds of Ka-Nying Shedrup Ling Monastery, among the most important Tibetan monasteries in Nepal. Set in the bustling town of Boudhanath—just outside of the city of Kathmandu, Nepal—the monastery is at the heart of the Tibetan settlement in Nepal. Because of this, students are able to engage with the daily realities of Tibetan Buddhism on a daily basis—an experience like no other in the world.

Tyler Cozzocrea, a computer science student who is currently participating in the study abroad program in Nepal for the past two months, has gained a new understanding of the world around him through his immersive experiences. 

“Words, photos, or even videos are not expressive enough to describe the experience of being here,” said Cozzocrea. “Living in Nepal and exploring Buddhism continues to be completely  eye-opening and is giving me the opportunity to further explore my identity and beliefs.”

Cozzocrea has gained new insights and perspectives into how we can think about and view the world around us, even in cultures that contrast the ones that we are surrounded by as we grow up. “The message I’m learning here is that things that we believe are unchangeable are actually very changeable. We get stuck in our ways back home, and exploring a new culture shows that there are new approaches to life that hadn’t been considered before. ” 

The new experiences that Cozzocrea and many other students have been a part of through study abroad programs embrace the diverse culture of Beaver Nation and help develop compassion,empathy, and a greater awareness for each other’s backgrounds and perspectives.

For those considering the study abroad program in Nepal, Cozzocrea encourages students to consider the cost effectiveness and new growth opportunities that this program can offer. 

For more information regarding the study abroad program in Nepal, religious studies professor Geoff Barstow invites students to connect with him to discuss more details. Studying in Nepal can offer students unique impactful experiences and help them mature into the next generation of problem solvers and innovators. To participate in fall term 2024, the deadline to apply is April 15, 2024.

Credit: Geoff Barstow

Credit: Geoff Barstow