India Field School: The Ethics of Community Engaged Learning

The India Field School was taught in two parts: a classroom-based seminar during the Winter 2017 semester followed by a one-month experiential course that was based in Dharamsala, India in May 2017.

This international field school was open to students from all disciplines at the University of Guelph, and examined both theoretically and practically the benefits and challenges associated with experiential learning in community settings, particularly in cross-cultural contexts in the Global South.

Field School Details

Instructor: Dr. Andrea Paras, Department of Political Science ( )

Offered: Winter 2017 + May 2017


The India Field School consisted of two separate courses, one in Guelph and one in India, each worth 0.5 credits for a total of 1.0 UG credits:

POLS 3960, Selected Topics in Political Science, Winter 2017, 0.5 credits

This seminar-style class engaged students in readings and discussions about the objectives of international experiential learning, such as internships or volunteerism. One of the main objectives of international study experiences is for students to develop intercultural competence, which is believed to break down prejudice, facilitate intercultural understanding, and contribute international goodwill. This is also a learning objective that has been identified by the University of Guelph under the broader goal of fostering Global Understanding amongst students. As such, this course engaged students in a critical understanding of intercultural competence, as part of the preparation for the India-based portion of the course. Each student in the class took the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) survey, which is a learning tool designed to help identify areas where individuals could improve their intercultural competency. Additionally, special attention was paid to the ethical dimensions of overseas volunteer programs, with a view to considering both the positive and negative contributions of overseas volunteer work. In particular, students engaged in readings and discussions about power and privilege. Finally, this course served to prepare students for their subsequent experience in India. Readings provided a historical background on India, as well as the ongoing Tibetan political situation. Students were also given appropriate logistical and cultural preparation. 

ISS 3270, India Studies in the Social Sciences, Summer 2017, 0.5 credits 

The one-month intensive course took place in Dharamsala, an small Indian town that is home to various India, Nepali, Tibetan, and ex-pat communities. Dharamsala is also the base of the Tibetan government in exile and the home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Students were given placements with local Indian and Tibetan NGOs. Over the course of the field school, students spent approximately 85 hours working at their placements on a task that was assigned by the organization in cooperation with the student. In addition to the placements, students had the opportunity to attend guest lectures, take language classes, and participate in field trips to the Taj Mahal, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the Dalai Lama temple in McLeod Ganj, and a weekend village camping trip. 

*Students may get a POLS credit for this course if they wish to do so.

Both courses are mandatory for all students enrolled in the field school, and admission to both was by instructor permission only.