India Regional Area Study

Program Snapshot
Semester: Fall
Offered: Odd years - Fall 2023, Fall 2025
Estimated Dates: Late August to early December
Program Focus: Regional Area Study
Prerequisites: Overall GPA of at least 2.75 and good academic standing. Students must satisfy the Words and Numbers CORE requirement before participating in an overseas program.
Housing:  Varies throughout the program
Fall 2021 Program Leader: Kaley Mason
Assistant Professor of Music, 503-768-7417

Program Design

India’s prominence on the international stage as one of the largest and most geographically diverse democratic nation-states makes it a rich environment for intellectual inquiry and intercultural education. The program is primarily situated in the Southwestern state of Kerala with shorter stays at sites in other regions. Integrated into all phases of the program are issues related to gender, the environment, economics, politics, history, religion, language, and the arts. Students are expected to contribute to the learning of the group by sharing their observations and analysis of issues discussed throughout the program.

Itinerary Overview

The program begins with an introduction to Indian society in Kerala’s capital city, Thiruvananthapuram (formally Trivandrum). Guided by local scholars and instructors, students learn about Indian history, politics, religions, social customs, and cultural heritage. They also develop practical Malayalam language skills through formal training at the American Institute of Indian Studies. The academic program then shifts to concentrate on art and culture through a series of field trips in and beyond Kerala. Students learn about cinema, visual art, architecture, literary scenes, and the performing arts over a series of brief stays in Chennai, Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, and Kochi. This phase finishes at the University of Art and Culture (Kalamandalam) in the small town of Cheruthuruthy in Central Kerala. From there, the program moves to Northern Kerala’s Kannur and Wayanad districts where local anthropologists shift the focus onto sustainable development, environmentalism, and social justice issues in rural locations, including remote sites in the mountain range of the Western Ghats, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for biodiversity.

About the Program Leader: Kaley Mason’s research examines the interplay of creative choices and material constraints in contemporary musical experience. Although his primary area of specialization is South Asia, his work is broadly concerned with how music serves as a vehicle for cultural dignity, and how performers in turn shape movements for social change. This is the focus of his first book, The Labor of Music: South Indian Performers and Cultural Mobility (forthcoming with Oxford). More recently, his research in India tracks the relationship between art and activism in song, from the music of political theater and revolutionary film, to emergent genres like alternative rock. In addition to contributing to edited volumes and journals, he is also co-editor of the book, Sound Alignments: Popular Music in Asia’s Cold Wars (Duke University Press).


Requirements Fulfilled: 

GE prior to Fall 2020 - This program fulfills the 8-credit International Studies general education requirement for students who successfully complete 12 or more semester credits. 

GE Fall 2020 and later - This program fulfills the Global Perspectives general education requirement for students who successfully complete 8 or more semester credits. IS 228 fulfills the Culture, Power, and Identity general education requirement. IS 229 fulfills the Creative Arts general education requirement.

This program fulfills the overseas study requirement for the Asian Studies major.

Credits: 16 credits (4 courses)


IS 227 Language and Society in India (4 credits)

In small-group language classes (three to five students), participants will learn basic speaking, reading, and writing skills in Malayalam. Each morning, students are in the classroom studying Malayalam, with experiential learning opportunities each week. Language instruction continues throughout the semester, and Malayalam is used during field trips, homestays, and independent projects. Regular seminars on Indian history, religions, social issues, and geography, and discussion sessions in small groups, allowing students an opportunity to reflect on adapting to Indian culture, culture shock, and lessons learned outside the classroom that will help students better function cross-culturally in India.

IS 228 Politics of Development in India (4 credits)

Examination of the politics of development in India from interdisciplinary perspectives. Drawing on literature in anthropology, sociology, environmental studies, political science, history, and food studies, students learn about how reformers and activists in the southwestern Indian state of Kerala addressed social inequality in post-independence India. Topics include gender equity, literacy and education, grassroots participatory democracy, decentralized planning, public health, caste discrimination, food security, climate justice, indigenous land claims, LGBTQ rights, religious communalism, and migration. Students learn in a seminar environment as well as through direct experience on field trips in semi-urban and rural locations in Northern Kerala, including the biodiversity hotspot of the Western Ghats.

IS 229 Art and Culture in India (4 credits)

Examination of North and South India’s art worlds. Students learn about poetry, music, theater, dance, film, and visual arts scenes while keeping artists and artisans at the center of their engagement with local spheres. A focus on “art worlds” encourages students to think about expressive culture as interdependent rather than as separate domains of human aesthetic experience. From Sanskrit treatises, religious experience, and courtly entertainment to cinema, galleries, social movements, and performing arts schools, students will build a frame of reference for situating artistic styles, sensibilities, patronage, and media in relation to larger historical forces and diverse subject locations. In the process, we also develop ethnographic skill sets and representational strategies for writing about encounters with difference in South Asia.

IS 233: Area Studies: South Asia (4 credits)

Bridge course synthesizing knowledge and experiences gained in the program. Students will do independent research and complete a holistic project focusing on phenomena common to the many program locations visited throughout India.

Student Life

Housing: Accommodations vary throughout the program depending on location. Students stay in a combination of apartments, hotels, and homestays. Students also have the opportunity to stay with a host family in Northern Kerala, which gives them a taste of what daily life is like in an Indian household. Students eat most of their meals together at the various accommodations, and are given a stipend to cover the cost of meals not provided during the program. Students will choose their own housing during the independent travel weeks.

Independent Travel: Within the program are two, week-long, independent travel opportunities designed to allow students to explore areas of India not included in the formal itinerary. Students assume responsibility for moving about and exploring India on their own within smaller groups. Students will choose their independent travel destinations while consulting with the program leader and in-country staff.


2021-2022 Fee Breakdown*

Total Fee (includes Tuition, Program Fee, and Health & Wellness Fee): $36,259

Tuition: $28,485

Program Fee: $7,737

Health & Wellness Fee: $37**

Included in the program fee are room/housing, board/meals, and administrative fees. Not included are airfare, passport and visa expenses, primary insurance coverage, photographs, books, immunizations, and incidentals. 

*Fees are updated every February for the following academic year.

**The Health & Wellness Fee supports the operations of Wellness Services staff in delivering pre-program orientation services, as well as in providing health-related consultation regarding participant health needs. All students in the College of Arts and Sciences pay a mandatory fee of $37 per semester.

Stipend: Students will receive a stipend to cover the cost of meals and transportation costs not covered by the program fee.

Estimated Airfare (Round Trip PDX to DEL): $1,000 - $2,000

Estimated Travel Document Fees: $350 - $450

Estimated Health Insurance Fee: $1,350.50

All students participating in overseas programs are automatically enrolled in iNext, a supplemental travel insurance program. The fee for iNext is covered in the program cost. However, students are also required to have comprehensive health insurance during their time abroad. All students participating in overseas programs, both abroad and domestic, are automatically enrolled in the College’s student health insurance program. Similar to a regular semester on-campus, students participating in overseas programs may waive enrollment in the student health insurance program if they have other comprehensive health insurance (e.g., through a parent, guardian or employer) that 1) provides coverage for them in the geographic region in which they will be studying and 2) includes mental health benefits. Click here for more information regarding health insurance & overseas programs.

Program Preparation

Application Process: Applications are due one year before the start of the program. The semester before the program, students who have been accepted will meet regularly for orientation. This orientation is meant to prepare the students for life in India by exploring literature and culture, and provides an opportunity for students to learn more about the logistical details of the program.

For more information about the application process, click here.

Travel: Students usually fly into Indira Gandhi International Airport airport (DEL), where they are met by onsite staff and transported to their hotel.

Visa: Students will be required to apply for a visa in order to participate in this program. More information will be provided upon admission to the program.

Country-Specific Health Information: Click here to view specific health information for people traveling to India.

State Department Country Information: Click here to visit the State Department’s India page.


Blog Posts

  • Indian Cinema as a Cultural Mirror

    1) At the beginning of May, I had an internship at the Cannes International Film Festival in France. In a taxi ride home one evening, I struck up conversation with the lead curator of the annual Chennai Film Festival. I mentioned our upcoming stud...