Pitzer in Nepal


The Pitzer in Nepal program was featured in the fall 1978 Participant

Pitzer College in Nepal is the College’s longest-running program and has gained recognition for its highly effective approach to language and cultural training. Pitzer in Nepal is affiliated with Tribhuvan University, Nepal’s premier national institution for higher education. The program is open to Pitzer College students and non-Pitzer undergraduate students. An intellectually demanding schedule blends family stays, language classes, lectures, field trips, community projects, and independent study. The integrated curriculum will enable students to interact closely with the people and cultures of Nepal.

Program Overview

The program begins with an orientation at the program house where students prepare for living with their Nepali host families. After acquiring foundational language skills during the orientation, students then spend the remainder of the program with their host families and taking the required courses.

The required courses include the core class, a language course, and an independent study project. The core class combines lectures, readings, discussions, and writing with the components of family stays, study trips, and field assignments. Students take intensive language sessions throughout the program to provide a basic working knowledge of the Nepali language and to promote communication and interaction with the people of Nepal. The last weeks of the semester are spent focusing on the Independent Study Project. Learn more about the program by viewing this slideshow created by students who participated in fall 2022.

Program Dates

Photo taken by Charlotte Wirth PZ’24

Fall: Beginning of August to mid-December

Spring: End of January to early June

Eligibility and Prerequisites: Students must be in good academic standing and have a 2.0 or higher GPA. Coursework in South Asian Studies, Intercultural Studies, and/or Socio-Cultural Anthropology is encouraged.


Nepal is a landlocked country in South Asia. It has a diverse geography including fertile plains, forested hills, and some of the world’s tallest mountains. Kathmandu is the nation’s capital and the largest city. The country has experienced social and political change in recent years as the country transitioned from what was, until recently, the world’s only Hindu monarchy to a secular democracy with increased rights for women, ethnic groups and other minorities. Issues such as rural development, rural to urban migration, infrastructure, health care, education, sustainable tourism, and many others remain paramount.

Students spend a large portion of the program in the Kathmandu Valley. In 2015, Kathmandu Valley was hit by the April 2015 Nepal earthquake. The earthquake caused thousands of deaths and the destruction of infrastructure across the Kathmandu Valley. Currently, Nepal’s post-earthquake reconstruction has made great strides. Interested in learning more about how Nepal has changed over the years? View photos collected over the years by past program directors Mike Donahue and Margie Donahue.

Kathmandu, Nepal
Stupa Bodhnath from air: Kathmandu, Nepal
  • Academics
    Pitzer students in Nepal with the Himalayas in the background.
    Nepal study trip

    Below are the courses offered in the program. Students are required to participate fully in all program components and are not allowed to withdraw from individual courses. Students must take all courses for a letter grade. Participating students from Pitzer College will have their grades from the program recorded on their Pitzer transcript and included in their overall GPA. Students from other colleges should check with their study abroad office for information about how grades from a semester abroad are integrated into their transcript.

    Students who wish to receive credit towards their major for a particular course should consult their academic adviser and major for guidelines. At Pitzer College, the field group decides which courses may be counted towards a major or minor requirement. Students from other universities should check with their study abroad office or registrar’s office about their school’s policy.

    Courses Claremont Credits Semester Credits
    Core Course: Culture, Change and Justice in Nepal 1.0 4
    Intensive Nepali Language 2.0 8
    Independent Study Project 1.0 4
    TOTALS 4.0 16

    Core Course: Culture, Change and Justice in Nepal

    The course combines lectures, readings, discussions, and extensive writing with the more experiential components of family stays, study trips, and field assignments. Through the course, students will become acquainted with some of the main historical, social, cultural, and political issues fundamental to Nepal’s modern identity. Students learn from Nepal’s leading figures in journalism, women’s health rights, and politics. Assignments focus on socio-cultural studies, kinship and family relations, development, environmental issues, health, and religion, requiring participants to use their Nepali language skills and integrate personal experiences from the culture with classroom learning. For Pitzer students, the core course will satisfy *Pitzer’s Social Responsibility Praxis (SRX) requirement. To learn more, click on this link to access a sample syllabus for the class.

    Intensive Nepali Language

    The aim of this course is to provide students with a basic working knowledge of the Nepali language and to promote communication and interaction with the people of Nepal. Language is your best skill while in Nepal. The approach to language learning emphasizes the ability to communicate an idea rather than acquiring perfect grammar or syntax. This effective approach allows students to gain fluency in Nepali at a rapid pace. Language instructors accompany students on trips and treks, providing both structured and informal field instruction. Throughout the semester, classes are held 3-5 hours per day, 5-6 days per week, for a total of approximately 200 in-class hours. Class size is small, with a student-teacher ratio of 3:1. To learn more click on this link to access a sample syllabus for the class.

    Independent Study

    Charlotte Wirth PZ’24 at ISP location

    The Independent Study Project is a chance for students to explore in-depth an aspect of Nepal in which they are particularly interested. The weeks allotted for the project come at the end of the program when students’ language skills are strongest, thereby allowing them to travel and do research independently as well as draw upon the cultural knowledge and information they have acquired throughout the semester. Students begin formalizing ideas for their projects during the second month of the program. These proposals are then discussed and refined in consultations and advising sessions with program staff and experts in the student’s field of interest. During the actual project period, students function independently, with program staff and advisers available for assistance when needed. Click on this link for more details and examples. Past student projects have included:

    • The Language Speaks: Case Study of Ethnic Relations and Language Dynamics in a Multilingual Village in Nepal
    • Modernization is in the Eye of the Beholder: A Case Study of Development in the Village of Bandipur
    • “Beings like Gods”: Stories, Beliefs, and Superstitions Concerning Simigaau Ghosts
    • Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: An Exploratory Study on Sex and Sexuality in Nepali Relationships and Marriages
    • Women, Work and Food: The Central Aspects of the Daily Life of the Sherpa/Tamang Women of Simigau
    • International Labor Migration in Nepal
    • Fighting Education: Methods of Overcoming Obstacles in Higher Secondary Schools in Bandipur, Nepal
    • Eco-Undertones in Nepali Religious Tradition
    • The End of Freak Street: Drug Abuse in Nepal: History, Treatment and Policy
  • Student Experience

    Family Stays

    Students Erica Hjelle and Charlotte Wirth PZ ‘24 with Host Family

    Students live with families for most of the program. Living with Nepali families helps provide necessary context for issues raised in lectures and readings and is one of the foundations of the experience in Nepal. Accordingly, participation in Nepali family and cultural life is a factor in the grade for the Nepal Studies course. Over the course of the program, students will live with two Nepali families, representing different ethnic, cultural, and economic backgrounds. The chance to become a member of these Nepali families and to develop a personal relationship with the individual family members is a privilege seldom experienced by most trekkers, diplomats, or researchers. Lifestyles are heavily informed by traditional Hindu beliefs. Homes have all that students need but may be more rustic than homes in the U.S. Students often consider family stays to be the most meaningful dimension of the program. Learn more about the family stay and student experience from Erica Hjelle PZ ’24 who recently participated in the program.

    Nepalese women walk through a field.Study Trips

    Students can explore some of the most important cultural and religious sites of the region including the medieval royal palaces of Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur; Pashupatinath, Nepal’s most revered Hindu temple; the stupa at Bouddha, an important Tibetan Buddhist pilgrimage site; and Changu Narayan, one of the oldest extant religious complexes in the Valley. These study tours are led by professionals and allow students to complement classroom learning with direct observation and experience in the field. Read more about some of the regional sites in an article from Touropia.

    On the program students will also take several trips to different regions of Nepal, experiencing Nepal’s cultural and religious diversity firsthand. Students trek along ancient trade routes, through terraced fields, and in the shadow of the world’s highest mountains. The main costs associated with the study trips (transportation, lodging, meals) are covered by the program. Trips may include a visit to national parks in southern Nepal which are home to elephants, one-horned rhino, and Royal Bengal tigers. Students also learn how Nepal is attempting to integrate traditional subsistence farming activities in and around parks with sound resource management and ecological development. Students connect with indigenous people living in the region to learn about their culture and the challenges they face. Other trips may include visits to the village of Simigaun, Chitwan National Park, the Annapurna Conservation Area, Lumbini, and Bandipur. This article by Rough Guides highlights some of the locations visited on the program study trips.

    Charlotte Wirth PZ’24 on study trip
  • Meet the Resident Directors
    Nepal Program Staff

    Co-Director: Shova Prasai

    About me:

    • Worked for Pitzer in Nepal since 1991
    • Worked in a high school as an English teacher
    • Worked with Peace Corps Nepal and other small college programs
    • Lived in England for 10 years

    Being a city girl, I personally had a lot of new experience working for Pitzer. I spent most of my time in the main city. Trekking was a totally different experience for me! Beforehand I didn’t realize that people hiked to destinations on foot! Going on a trek with students and seeing my country in a new way was amazing.

    Co-Director: Lalit Man Lama

    Hobbies: Dancing and listening music

    Favorite moment from Pitzer Nepal program: There are so many favorite memories, but if I have to choose one then it is fall 2008 when we were on a trek to Tanting village. It is a Gurung (one of the ethnic groups) village, located just outside of Pokhara, in the lap of the Annapurna Mountains. We started our trek from Begnas Lake, near Pokhara. We did 2 hours of language class on the way under a tree and students really enjoyed the class in nature. We arrived at the camping site around 4:00pm and the view was mesmerizing. To the north we could see a beautiful range of the Annapurna Mountains and to the south there was Begnas Lake. It was my first time setting up a tent and I asked the students to help me. After the camp was set up we had our dinner together and chatted about the day. The view around the Begnas Lake was amazing at night. I felt as if I was above the stars looking down at the light of village below. These kinds of moments on the Pitzer in Nepal program are unforgettable.


  • Next Steps

    Next Steps

    Rice Paddies in Pokhara, Nepal
    Rice Paddies in Pokhara, Nepal

    Interested in the Pitzer in Nepal program? Great! Learn more by attending an information session, scheduling a meeting with a study abroad adviser, and connecting with program alum.

    How to Apply

    Application Steps and Deadlines for Pitzer College Students:


    Application Steps for Non-Pitzer Students:


    Photo Credit: Charlotte Wirth

    Before You Go

    After students apply and are accepted into the program, they will participate in a program orientation before leaving for Nepal. Orientations provide cultural context, health and safety information, and academic guidelines. At orientation, students will receive details specific to the program including program dates, flight arrangements, immunization documents, safety guidelines, and the handbook.

    Students are responsible for researching country specific information and the visa process. Everyone on the program needs a passport. Check the expiration date. If you do not have a passport valid for six months after your planned return from study abroad, then you will need to renew your passport.

    Typically, students traveling with a U.S. passport will receive their visa for Nepal upon arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu. Prices vary for the visa, students will be notified of costs and receive additional details a few weeks before leaving for the program. However, the visa process can change at any time, students can stay up to date by regularly checking the State Department website and Consulate General of Nepal website.