Development, Tradition, and Modernity
In the summer of 2019, 12 students and two Thacher faculty members traveled to India with Where There Be Dragons, Thacher’s partner for cultural immersion travel. The three-week trip, titled India: Development, Tradition, and Modernity, took the group to four locales: Delhi, Kausani, Satoli, and Sonaponi. 

In Delhi, India’s largest city and one of the largest metropolises on Earth, students explored questions about rural-urban migration, urban wealth distribution, and economic development and resource management in a bustling city. Then, transitioning to the small town of Kausani, the group was hosted at a Gandian ashram where they dove deeply into the questions of colonialism, resource extraction, migration, resistance, gender, and the relationships of these themes to spirituality and religion in India. Homestays in the even smaller rural village of Satoli gave students a chance to form close relationships while they began to experience how the broad trends they had been discussing make their way into daily village life.

  • Jake Jacobsen, English teacher and coordinator of the Marvin Shagam Program for Ethics and Global Citizenship
  • Sarah DelVecchio, chair of the History Department

Why India? 
Among the goals of the trip were to:
  • Experience the intensity of religious devotion and ritual that we don't normally see in the U.S.
  • Give students a chance to show group leadership under challenging conditions.
  • Encounter the beauty of the countryside, especially in the northern Himalayan regions.
  • Learn about the unique Tibetan culture and the challenge of sustaining its religious and social fabric in exile from its homeland.
  • Expose students to Buddhism and the potential for meditation and mindfulness.

Student Impressions
Lizbeth ’21 was most shocked the first day: “On the bus traveling from the airplane to the hotel in Delhi, we saw people sleeping on the ground—homeless people everywhere. It shocked me. I thought, ‘Yeah this is real,’ and it made me realize how privileged we are.” 

Will ’20 appreciated the opportunity to study abroad during high school, “before I develop my outlook on the world.” He said that as a result of this trip, he wants to seek more information about the challenges people are facing in other parts of the world. 

Victoria ’21 discovered the similarities between the Indian culture and her own: “I’m Mexican. I saw similarities between their families and mine. During my homestays, they brought us into the family and made us feel like a part of it. That’s what my family does. And family life revolves around food in both cultures.” 

All three students mentioned the impact that learning about the Tibetan refugee crisis had on them. “It’s an important issue, and there is so little coverage,” said Victoria. Will appreciated the opportunity to speak with the Dali Lama’s translator about the crisis; and Lizbeth mentioned that the Tibetan Women’s Association keeps records of all Tibetan political prisoners and works to gain their freedom. 

The Marvin Shagam Program for Ethics and Global Citizenship provides an avenue for Thacher students and faculty members to develop a global consciousness. Named after the late Marvin Shagam, a true global citizen who taught at Thacher for 60 years, the program seeks to develop ethics and global awareness, traits for which Mr. Shagam was known and honored. Global studies at Thacher reflect his commitment to an ethical, compassionate, multicultural, and global understanding of problems and solutions.

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