Field Trips & Independent Travel
Destinations can change from year to year. In recent years, CRC’s year-long itinerary has included Taiwan, Thailand, India, and Turkey. Below are a number of site visits and trips that CRC has included over the past few years.
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 was 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.
Participation in an Alevi ceremony provided a window into the community life of Turkey's largest religious minority.
- Ataturk's Mausoleum
The tomb and museum that memorializes Turkey's War of Independence displays many features seen in religious veneration.
- Mevlevi Derga
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.
- Kariye Muzesi
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.
- Etz Ahayim
Our visit to this synagogue in Istanbul familiarized us with Jewish community life and the contemporary challenges it involves.
- Aya Sophia
Led by a scholar of ancient Christianity, this site visit portrays the various meanings a structure can hold over time. Once the central church of the Christian world, it later became a mosque and then a museum. It currently stands as a secular space open to the public.
- Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Cami)
Following a detailed presentation about Islam and the particular features of this mosque, students are prepared to view this peak exemplar of classical Islamic architecture.
The India portion of the CRC program investigates the dominant living religious traditions of India: Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Islam. The program has included lectures on and visits to the Taj Mahal, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the Tibetan community in Dharmsala, Sufi and Sikh sites in New Delhi, Buddhist centers at Bodh Gaya and Hindu sites in Varanasi, among others.
- Kumbh Mela
The largest gathering of human beings for a single purpose, this rotating pilgrimage site brings together devotees of different traditions from all over India. Students stayed at an ashram and joined with over 30 million pilgrims as they participated in their sacred rituals.
The center of the Tibetan culture and leadership in exile, Dharmsala offers students the opportunity to study global issues of refugees, human rights, and India-China relations through firsthand observation. Students had a private audience with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, and Lobsang Sangay, head of Tibet's leadership in exile.
- Taj Mahal
Students took a day trip from Delhi to Agra to see this UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and the Red Fort, two Mughal gems.
- The Golden Temple
Guided by a Sikh expert and practitioner, students spent many hours in this beautiful and most holy site of Sikhism, learning about and experiencing this important minority religion in India.
The most visited standing pilgrimage site in the world, Tirupati provides 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 religion" in the context of an established tradition. In addition to watching local Hindus include the temple in their worship circuit, students tour the kitchen for one of the largest food aid programs in the world: 850,000 meals a day.
A small Dalit village introduces 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 traces popular pilgrimage routes, including visits to a male and a female Aghori (specialists of Hindu Tantra), and exposes students to thousands of years of temple art and architecture.
Located a short drive from Varanasi, students experience the site where the Buddha taught his first sermon to five disciples at Deer Park.
- Bodh Gaya
Students took a weekend trip to one of the holiest Buddhist pilgrimage sites in the world. Devotees from all Buddhist countries around the world make pilgrimages to the site where the Buddha attained Enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree.
Nestled between Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet and West Bengal, this former independent Kingdom exhibits lived and historical Buddhism in the Tibetan style, against the stunning backdrop of the Himalayan Mountains. Students spent two weeks trekking between monasteries and waterfalls, visiting an extraordinary Buddha Park, learning from Tibetan scholars and experiencing traditional Bhutia homestays.
Taiwan offers the unique opportunity to experience the living presence of Popular
Religion, Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. Students have visited temples of all
these traditions. The CRC program includes workshops, seminars and field trips to
temples and other religious and secular 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.
- 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
- Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation
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. Some students also visited the
Taipei branch for the anniversary of their foreign language volunteers program.
Dharma Drum Mountain
The nuns and monks at this monastery offer a weekend
retreat at their huge monastic headquarters located in a beautiful mountain
setting just outside Taipei city. Students learn not only meditation, but also
about Buddhism in Taiwan, how to chant and play dhamma instruments.
- Longshan Temple
At one of the most famous and continuously populous temples
in Taipei, students take a guided tour and observe religious practice. This
Buddhist temple is dedicated to the bodhisattva Guan-Yin but students soon learn
that other deities play significant roles within the religious complex.
This temple, a mix of the religious and secular, is a place for
Taiwanese to learn about Confucius as well as ask for help with their academic
pursuits. Students visit this temple during an ordinary day and for the annual
Teachers' Day rituals.
This unique temple in the middle of one of Taipei’s many
shopping districts allows students to observe a distinct purification ritual.
- Songshan Temple
At this Daoist temple set in the scenic mountains of Taipei,
students are greeted by friendly temple priests and volunteers. Here we learn
about Daoist religious belief and practice.
- Taroko National Park
An important repository of Taiwan’s biodiversity, with
climates ranging from tropical to Alpine, Taroko offers an opportunity for relief
from the urban crunch of Taipei. Students hiked through the mountains of
Hualien on the eastern side of the island.