Field Trips & Independent Travel
Destinations can change from year to year. In 2010-2011, CRC went to Taiwan, Thailand, India, and Turkey.
Taiwan has offered the unique opportunity to experience a living presence of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism; students have visited temples of all three traditions. Fu Jen Catholic University in Taipei has hosted us, as has National Chengchi University. The program has included lectures, seminars and field trips to temples, monasteries and other religious sites. Students also have received an introduction to Mandarin Chinese and the traditional Chinese arts such as Tai Chi, herbal medicine, acupuncture and Chinese astrology.
Fo Guang Shan
A week-long retreat at one of Taiwan’s most prominent Buddhist monasteries. Students learned the principles of their tradition through readings and lectures as well as a disciplined, meditative approach to eating, speaking, walking, and working.
Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall
This complex memorializes Chiang Kai-Shek and Taiwan’s political transformations over the years. The veneration of political figures and national heritage offers ground for comparison with religious devotion.
This Buddhist charity organization combines spiritual cultivation with social service. Students visited the main temple in Hualien, which is also the site of Tzu Chi’s hospital and the headquarters for its international relief efforts.
Students encountered the iconography, devotional practices, and broad historical background that surround the local deity, Matsu, at her temple in Suao.
This beautiful Taoist temple is set in the hills overlooking Taipei. Here students encountered the combinative nature of Taoism, incorporating elements of Buddhism, Confucianism, and popular religion.
Taroko National Park
An opportunity for relief from the urban crunch of Taipei. Students hiked through the mountains of Ilan on the eastern side of the island.
The program in Thailand has provided students with the opportunity to study in both the bustling capital of Bangkok and the gateway to the mountainous north, Chiang Mai. Students have learned firsthand about Buddhism by visiting some of Thailand’s many temples and ruins. A holiday break has occupied the last two weeks in Thailand, giving students the opportunity to travel around the country.
Wat Suan Dok
Students participated in a multi-day meditation retreat in the countryside outside of Chiang Mai. This experience exposed students to the particularly Thai and Theravada style of Buddhist meditation, offering opportunities for comparison with other styles of Buddhism they had experienced previously.
One of Thailand’s only female monastics, Dhammanandha Bhikkuni showed how simple conceptions of “traditional” Buddhism leave out much of the creativity and diversity that makes Thai Buddhism and culture what it is.
A dinner and discussion with Thailand’s leading Buddhist dissident offered a critical perspective on the role of the state and the royal family in shaping Thai Buddhism.
Thai-Burma Border Consortium
Students learned about the situation of the “unofficial” refugees seeking to escape conflict in Myanmar. This presentation informed students about the particular context of Thai culture and politics, and the unique initiatives developed by the refugees and aid organizations in response.
AIDS Network Organization
A day-long exposure to the politics, economics, and health issues that surround HIV/AIDS in Thailand. Students met with representatives of People Living with HIV/AIDS and with a representative of Empower, an organization that provides training in alternative job skills for sex workers.
The India term has investigated the dominant living religious traditions of India: Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Islam. The program has included lectures on and visits to the Gandhian Peace Foundation, the Taj Mahal, the Tibetan community in Bylakuppe, the Jain center in Sravanabelagola, Sufi and Sikh sites in New Delhi, Buddhist centers at Bodh Gaya and Hindu sites in Varanasi, among others.
Yoga Retreat, led by the Darsan School of Yoga
A full weekend of yoga instruction and meditation.
Staying at a guest house in the Tibetan refugee settlement of Bylakuppe, students learned about many aspects of the community and Tibetan cultural and political realities via presentations and discussions.
Students explored the ancient ruins of the largest Hindu empire at Hampi, Karnataka. In addition to the ruins, students visited remote active temples such as temples devoted to the goddess Lakshmi, the god Siva, and the epic hero monkey god Hanuman.
Spent winter break at the southernmost tip of Tamil Nadu, which is a major pilgrimage site, particularly for worshippers of the bachelor god Ayappa. Several students also visited the tropical seaside state of Kerala.
Guided by a Jain scholar, students explored the Jain pilgrimage sites in the town of Svranabelagola in Karnataka. They visited temples dating back 2300 years, met with a Swami, and climbed the many steps to view the Jain statues.
One of southern India’s most important pilgrimage sites, Tirupati provided students with an opportunity to witness and participate in Hindu rituals alongside thousands of devotees.
A visit to the Hare Krishna temple in Bangalore showed this “new religious” in the context of an established tradition. In addition to watching local Hindus include the temple in their worship circuit, we toured the kitchen for one of the largest food aid programs in the world: 850,000 meals a day.
A small Dalit village introduced students to daily life as an untouchable. The role of Christianity within the Dalit community, and the particular brand of Christianity that has evolved within this context of social outreach and activism, opened students to new ways of conceiving this tradition.
Travel within this “Goddess territory” outside Varanasi traced popular pilgrimage routes, included visits to a male and a female Aghori (specialists of Hindu Tantra), and exposed students to thousands of years of temple art and architecture.
Turkey provides a rich opportunity to encounter the diversity within Islamic culture. Guided by a strong tradition of secularism in politics, Turkey exhibits a moderate, public Islam governed by a state ministry. At the level of private devotion, mystical Sufi traditions incorporate chanting and dance in a quest to embody their love of the divine. The Alevis, a religious minority, draw on strands of Shi’ism, Sufism, and the cult of Ataturk (the founding father of Turkish secularism) in their unique approach to Islam.
Located in the heart of Turkey’s political capital of Ankara, this large and beautiful mosque is presided over by the head of the Ministry of Religious Affairs who writes the sermons read throughout the country every Friday.
Islamic Vakif, Women’s Branch
This private religious foundation is headed by Turkey’s leading Muslim feminist. Her meeting with students dispelled many of the stereotypes concerning gender and Islam while offering a critical appraisal of the Islamic tradition in its current state.
Our participation in an Alevi ceremony provided a window into the community life of Turkey’s largest religious minority.
The tomb and museum that memorializes Turkey’s war of independence displays many features seen in religious veneration.
This homestay with a Sufi Brotherhood in Konya included attendance at a large public performance of the Sema, the whirling dance of the Sufis, as well as inclusion within a more private, intimate chanting session and communal meal.
This late Byzantine church offers some of Istanbul’s best preserved religious art. Students encountered a vision of Christianity inflected with Orthodoxy and Marian devotion.
Our visit to this synagogue in Istanbul familiarized us with Jewish community life and the contemporary challenges it involves.