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Albright Profs and Students Travel to India to Explore Social Roles and Family Ties in a Rapidly Changing Society

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A group of intrepid Albrightans spent their 2011 spring break halfway around the globe as part of an interdisciplinary course exploring how Hindu beliefs about social roles and family ties impact India’s rapidly changing society and economy.  It was part of a course, “Religion, Class and Economic Development in India” taught by Albright professors Victor Forte, Ph.D. (religious studies) and  Lisa Wilder, Ph.D. (economics and business). Eleven students made the trip with them.  

According to Wilder, “Some 60 percent of the world’s population and some of the most rapidly growing economies in the world are in Asia.  Our students need to understand Asian culture to be prepared for the future.  Our study abroad trips to Japan, India and our upcoming trip to China provide a foundation that no textbook can replace.”

Personal experiences in India included important historical, religious and cultural sites, visits to an orphanage and school, an evening Aarti ceremony on the banks of the Ganges, and a Holi celebration at the home of an Indian family.

In addition, Wilder said, “Students who haven’t even traveled much in the United States return from these tours eager to learn more about the rest of the world, while having the personal experience and confidence to continue to travel themselves. It is a transformative experience.”

One of the comments from the post-course evaluation survey said, “Learning about their economy and culture will be a huge benefit for me going into a business world that is very globalized, with India playing such a huge role in the future.”

Another student commented, “It was an amazing experience. To see the monuments and temples alongside the poverty, creativity and enterprising spirit of the people of India was a contrast that could never be grasped in a classroom. The architecture of the various forts, palaces and temples couldn't be captured with words or even photos; it is something that must be experienced.”

“I learned that the U.S. takes many things for granted such as our history, monuments and culture. I learned that the people there work harder than we do to just make enough money to feed their families,” said a third student.

For the first time, course and trip participants included both traditional day students and Accelerated Degree Program students. 

According to Wilder, there are many advantages to traveling as a class. “Participating in a class tour provides safety, the opportunity to meet others and practice interpersonal skills, as well as sharing different perspectives on travel experiences.  The tour makes study abroad both fun and rewarding,” she said.

In spring 2012, Professors Wilder and Forte are planning a course on China’s religion and economy, which will include a study tour of Beijing, Hong Kong and some of the religious centers in the holy mountains of Central China.  They encourage participation of students (who can receive credit in religion, economics or interdisciplinary studies), ADP students (who can receive credit as interdisciplinary studies or foreign language/culture) and alumni.  For information, contact the Experiential Learning and Career Development Center at 610-921-7630, or email Professor Wilder at lwilder@albright.edu.