Cover Photo Image


Kathmandu, Rasuwa District, Nepal

Program Description

Himalayan Geographies: Landscapes and Cultures of Nepal will introduce students to the exceptional environmental landscapes and rich cultural diversity of Nepal. Combining adventurous experiential learning with a human-environment ‘mountain geographies’ analytical framework, the course will educate students about everyday experiences with international development, processes of globalization, and post-disaster reconstruction in one of the most rapidly changing countries on earth. In addition to days spent exploring the ancient temples, historic palaces, and colorful bazaars of the capital city Kathmandu, students and faculty will spend two weeks studying the mountain geographies of ethnic Tamang and Langtangpa communities in Nepal’s northern Rasuwa District. In 2015, devastating Himalayan earthquakes severely damaged infrastructures across Rasuwa District. By examining and engaging with the lived experiences of recent seismic events and the ongoing earthquake aftermath, our time in Rasuwa will provide a real-world case study of the challenges, successes, and failures of humanitarian aid and international development in a post-disaster context.  

Coursework in GEOG 344: Development and Globalization (Post-Disaster Development in Nepal) and GEOG 380: Cultural Geography (Himalayan Religion and Society) will be studied and experienced by hiking the ‘Tamang Heritage Trail’ and living with members of the local community in Langtang National Park. During this period, students will also have opportunities to explore high summer yak grazing pastures beneath Himalayan glaciers, sample and cook an array of South Asian foods, visit numerous sacred Hindu and Buddhist pilgrimage sites, and develop friendships with our hosts to build nuanced understandings of how processes of globalization operate through social relationships.  

Himalayan Geographies will be directed by Dr. Galen Murton, Assistant Professor of Geographic Science in the School of Integrated Sciences and co-led by Dr. Nadine Plachta, Lecturer in Anthropology at University of Fribourg (Switzerland) and previously Visiting Scholar at JMU in Spring 2020. Together, Drs. Murton and Plachta have over 25 years-experience living and working in Nepal, including the design and direction of more than one dozen study abroad programs in Himalayan regions of South Asia.

Location Description

Nepal is a developing country of nearly 30 million people comprising numerous religious belief systems, language traditions, and political orientations.

The capital of Kathmandu is a fascinatingly vibrant and colorful but also polluted and chaotic city of well over one million residents. From ancient marketplaces to modern shopping malls, Kathmandu is a city that takes lifetimes to explore and we will do our best to see as many of the spectacular monuments and exciting environments as possible during our time in the city. Widely known for its exceptional artistic heritage and handicraft industry, sometimes one can even see Mount Everest from the city's rooftops (most recently during the COVID period).

Rasuwa is a northern district of Nepal that borders the Tibet Autonomous Region of the Peoples Republic of China. Immediately northwest of Kathmandu, the environment of Rasuwa ranges from subtropical jungles and banana trees to 25,000 ft Himalayan mountains and sacred alpine lakes. While just 6-8 hours from Kathmandu by private vehicle, the villages and communities of Rasuwa continue to maintain social practices far removed from the hustle and bustle of the capital city. As ways of life are inextricably entwined with local environments, Rasuwa is thus an exceptional place to study and experience ‘mountain geographies’ as an intersection of physical and cultural landscapes.


Galen Murton | | Geographic Science


Students and staff will live together in a fully-furnished and wifi enabled guest house in central Kathmandu during the program start and end. During the time in Rasuwa, students will be housed in both homestays and in simple, 'tea house' style accommodations typical of the trekking industry in Nepal (basic but comfortable Alpine 'refugios' with exceptional food and central seating areas for communal gatherings). Rooming will generally be on a shared-occupancy basis (2-3 students per room).

Students will be given breakfast and dinner while in Kathmandu and during group travel as well as in their host family and trekking lodge 'tea house' accommodations. Students should plan to spend their own money each day to cover the cost of lunch.

Additional Items to Consider

Visas are available upon arrival at Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport for US passport holders ($45 for 30 days)
Recommended and required vaccinations and immunizations will be discussed at a later date and in consultation with participants' health care providers.

Cell phone policy will be discussed at a later date with respect to general bandwidth and 5G network access in various program sites across Nepal.

Applicant Criteria

Applicants must have a GPA minimum of 2.5

Prerequisites: GEOG 280: Human Geography or equivalent (to be discussed and evaluated by Program Director) 

Application Process

This list serves as an application preview. To apply, students will need to complete the following:

  • Study Abroad Online Application ($40 fee)
  • Short essay 
  • List of academic references
  • Interview with Program Director may be required
  • Official transcript required for non-JMU and first semester transfer students.

Further details and instructions about these application requirements will be available upon log-in. 

Application Deadline


All dates are tentative and subject to change


GEOG 344: Globalization and Development (Post-Disaster Development in Nepal) (3 credits)

GEOG 380: Cultural Geography (Himalayan Religion and Society) (3 credits)

Courses listed here are to be used as a general guideline for program curriculum. *All courses are considered pending until approved by the Academic Department, Program, and/or College.


Back to Top