India journey brings classroom to life

June 20, 2012 5:45 AM

Joseph Halm

A group of 14 students is taking part in the Compassion in Action India Summer Program, which takes students to Dharamsala, India, and other places in Himachal Pradesh each summer for a month.


Tulane rising sophomore Clare Tuck interacts with a child in the Charankot slum in northern India, after a lecture by the founder of Tong-len, an agency that works with the community in Charankot. (Photo by Sarah Epstein)

Rising junior Teresa Palkowski, who has always dreamed of going to India, during her first trip there with the program heard the Dalai Lama deliver a lesson at his temple.

“This trip has been an invaluable experience, specifically because of how well-rounded it has been. What makes this trip truly humbling is that these people are genuinely happy and peaceful people despite the poverty they face,” says Palkowski. “Traveling to different parts of India reinforces the Buddhist philosophy that neither the accumulation of material possessions nor fixation over negative feelings will equate to happiness. I have learned from my mutual learning partner, who is one of the Dalai Lama’s nuns, that happiness is simply a state of mind.”

While in India, students take “Social Engagement in India,” a survey of practical applications of non-violent social movements in India, and complete service-learning hours by volunteering with social service organizations that serve Tibetan refugees in India.

“Thus far it has been phenomenal — one of the most life-changing experiences I will surely have,” sophomore Michael Pinover says. “Professor [Michael] Smith has engaged us in many eye-opening experiences and a multitude of fun activities. This course takes us outside the classroom to actually experience the subject matter one reads of in textbooks. It is one thing to read about extreme poverty in the slums of India, or of Buddhist monks who have fled from Tibet, but it is a whole new thing to actually meet them.”

The study abroad program is sponsored by the Tulane Center for Public Service in collaboration with the Tulane School of Social Work.

Joseph Halm is marketing/communications coordinator for the School of Social Work.


Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000