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  • Locations: Kathmandu, Nepal
  • Program Terms: Winter Quarter
Dates / Deadlines:

There are currently no active application cycles for this program.
Program Information:
sociology italy
 Location Kathmandu, Nepal
Winter 2018
Winter quarter dates: January 3 – March 9, 2018
Spring quarter dates: March 26 - June 1, 2018
 Estimated    Program Fee Winter quarter: $7,000 (plus $350 Study Abroad fee)
Spring quarter: $7,000 (plus $450 Study Abroad fee)
 Credits 15 UW credits
 Prerequisites Attend a minimum of 3 Seattle-based/online orientation sessions during Fall 2017. 
 Program      Directors Benjamin Spencer, Laure Heland, David Citrin, , Shree Krishna Dhital, Sunita Subba, Manish Chalana(tbd)
 Program Manager Ruby Machado |
 Application    Deadline Rolling admissions until October 6th
 Information  Session(s) Contact Program Director for more information.
  General International Design Activism | Nepal (IDA|N) is an immersive 1-2 quarter (1 semester+) study abroad program focused on community-based planning, design and project implementation in the marginalized urban communities of Kathmandu, Nepal.
Where You Will Study
Expenses, Financial Aid, & Scholarships


Program Description

Kathmandu, Nepal With a population approaching 3 million and a growth rate of close to 4%, the Kathmandu Valley is one of fastest growing metropolitan areas in Asia. Following a decade long civil war, the 2015 earthquakes and the recent ratification of a democratic constitution, Kathmandu is an epicenter of political, social and environmental change – a shifting and contested landscape. A long history of exemplary urban design and respect for public space has been subsumed by rapid growth. Urban poverty, social inequity and informal urban development are increasing with profound implications for quality of life, health and well-being and ecological resilience in the city and beyond.

Program Overview International Design Activism | Nepal (IDA|N) is an immersive, interdisciplinary 1-2 quarter (1 semester+) study abroad program offered by the Department of Landscape Architecture's Informal Urban Communities Initiative (IUCI) with the support of the UW Jackson School of International Studies, Nepal Studies Initiative (NSI). The program will challenge students to delve into contemporary debates surrounding urban development, and respond to them through community-based, participatory design, project implementation and assessment. Students in the IDA|N program will work with local students from Tribhuvan and Kathmandu Universities to explore the social and environmental drivers and impacts of rapid urbanization in Kathmandu Valley and undertake a planning/design intervention in collaboration with community members. The program will include four general areas of study – 1) Social, Cultural, Ecological and Urban Context 2) Participatory Planning, Design, Implementation and Assessment 3) Technology and Practice 4) Local Language - and will place particular emphasis on the analysis, planning, design and construction of urban infrastructure and public space in underserved communities.

The program's suite of courses will include lectures and discussions, organizational site visits, field trips, community workshops, and hands-on planning/design/construction that responds to the challenges, priorities and assets of a poor urban community. Students will examine questions such as: What are the social, political and environmental drivers and implications of rural-urban migration / rapid urban development in the Kathmandu Valley? What are the socio-cultural, spatial and material characteristics of Kathmandu's urban fabric. What are the everyday conditions of people in Nepal? How might participatory planning, design and accessible technology serve as agents of positive change in underserved communities? What are the practicalities and possibilities of a career in community-based design/planning in developing contexts?

The program will be co-directed by Associate Professor, Ben Spencer and Affiliate Associate Professor Laure Heland in the Department of Landscape Architecture with support from the Nepal Studies Initiative in the Jackson School of International Studies. 

The program will be undertaken in conjunction with a concurrent Seattle-based MLA Capstone Studio, taught by Brian Gerich (Lecturer, Dept. Of Landscape Architecture, AIA, Director Architects w/o Borders Seattle) and will involve the intermittent exchange of information and collaboration online.

Enrollment We encourage graduate and advanced undergraduate students from any discipline at the UW and non-UW matriculated students to participate in the program during the both the winter and spring quarters (spring semester+) of 2018. Students may also elect to participate in the program during the winter or spring quarter alone.

Applications for the 2018 winter quarter portion of the study abroad program are rolling admissions and due on September 15, 2017.

Applications for the 2018 spring quarter portion of the study abroad program are rolling admissions and due on September 15, 2017.

Students planning to participate in both quarters of the program should apply for the winter quarter and notify the program directors of their plans to study in Nepal during the spring as well. The Spring quarter application is available here: 


Kathmandu, Nepal


Pathlekhet Village and Langtang National Park


Kathmandu We will spend the majority of the program in urban, Kathmandu Valley. Students will stay in rental housing located in Patan. Patan, is a safe setting for students, convenient for all Kathmandu Valley activities and easily accessible for guest lecturers and Nepali students. Students will be responsible for their own meals. They will have kitchens in their rental units and will have the option to prepare their own food or eat out at one of many local restaurants.

Additional services provided will include:

  • Transportation within Kathmandu Valley
  • Airport pickup/dropoff
  • A conference room for discussions, lectures, and program activities as well as shop facilities including digital fabrication equipment and a wide assortment of tools at Communiterre Nepal.

Field Trips We will take two 5-7 day field trips to rural/wilderness areas. During the first field trip to Kavre District in the village of Pathlekhet students will stay at Phoolbari Homestay. Students will stay in traditional Nepali style houses, eat food prepared by our Nepali hosts and learn about Nepali life in a rural/village context. During the second field trip to Langtang National Park students will explore Nepal's mountain ecology. We will stay in a guest house (TBD) and dine at local restaurants. We will be accompanied by Randall Kyes in the UW Department of Psychology who has been running field based educational workshops in Langtang National Park for many years.


Pre-Requisites/Language Requirements

Orientation Sessions (required)

Participation in a minimum of 3 orientation sessions (Seattle-based/online) within the fall seminar are required for participation in the program during the in the winter/spring quarters. Full participation in the fall seminar is not required but is highly recommended.

Previous experience studying, working or living abroad will be viewed in a positive light but is not required. Given the unpredictability of community-based work, we will be looking for applicants with personal qualities including patience, adaptability, and the ability to maintain a positive attitude in the face of changing and/or adverse circumstances.

The program will focus on the real-world challenges facing Nepali citizens and students will spend a great deal of time learning in a marginalized urban community in Kathmandu where living and environmental conditions are poor. Students will participate in construction activities that may require significant physical exertion. Most activities will be undertaken in collaboration with local stakeholders. UW students should be open to cultural exchange, prepared for the challenges that arise from cross-cultural communication and motivated to engage directly with Nepali peers, educators and other collaborators.

During field trips we will be hiking up/down steep hills to reach various community projects/initiatives and staying in rustic conditions. There will be limited access to electricity and modern communication. Beds and toilet facilities will be basic. Students should be motivated to accommodate these conditions.


15 Credits


LARC 702A: International Design Activism Studio| Participatory Design (6 credits)

The International Design Activism Studio (participatory design focus) will cultivate students' ability to design and implement transformative community-driven design interventions in a marginalized informal urban community. Building on participatory planning design theory and methods introduced during the fall quarter IDA| N seminar and concurrent classes focusing on Nepal's culture, context and technology, the studio will challenge students to formulate and carry out participatory workshops, synthesize and reflect upon community feedback, posit innovative planning/design solutions that respond to community identified challenges, leverage community assets, conduct participatory research and purse iterative planning/design development.

Learning Goals: 

Primary learning goals include:

  • Pursue planning and design as creative, synthetic approaches to problem solving in complex developing contexts.
  • Strengthen student knowledge of and competency in participatory planning, design, project implementation and assessment.
  • Strengthen ability to work both independently and collaboratively, to learn from both success and failure and to adapt to an unfamiliar context and evolving circumstances.

Students will be assessed based upon the quality of their contributions to the participatory planning/design process, synthesis of community input, iterative planning/design, creativity, craft and collaboration with Nepali students and community members.

LARC 598A: Culture | Ecology | Public Space (3 credits)

This seminar will focus on contemporary development in Nepal and the Kathmandu Valley and its relationship to urban form and public space in the city. Students will explore the interdependence socio-economic activities and ecological change, the drivers and impacts of urbanization including climate change, conflict and poverty, the multi-varient factors that influence Kathmandu's urban form and the social and spatial qualities of public spaces in the city. We will organize lectures by Nepali faculty members from Tribhuvan University and Kathmandu University, hold discussions with Nepali students, assign readings and visit local sites relevant to course content.

Learning Goals: 

Primary learning goals include:

  • Help students to broaden their knowledge of contemporary development in the Kathmandu Valley and its relationship to urban form and public space.
  • Develop students' capacity to communicate and collaborate with peers in a different cultural context.
  • Enhance student capacity for critical thinking and debate. Students will be assessed based upon their contributions to class discussions, reading reflections and a final poster presentation.

LARC 498A: Place | Technology (3 credits)

Place | Technology will explore the genus loci of plants, materials and technologies in Kathmandu. UW students will work with TU and KU students to conduct plants/materials/technology research, locate and map, plants/materials/technology resources and experiment with their design, assembly and form. Topics covered will build upon our assessment of community priorities and are likely to relate to food, water, earthquake recovery and the construction of places of public gathering. The course will overlap with, draw upon and inform the IDA |N studio's participatory planning/design and implementation processes.

Learning Goals: 

Primary learning goals include:

  • Explore the opportunities and constraints of local plants, materials and technologies.
  • Develop skills in hands-on craft .
  • Foster knowledge of technologies that promote a social, economic and environmental goals. Students will be assessed based on research/prototype projects focusing on plants, materials and technologies.

LARC 495A: Spoken Nepali I (3* credits)

Spoken Nepali will introduce students to practical Nepali for use in everyday conversation as well as romanized written Nepali. Language instruction will take place during two, 1.5 hour morning sessions each week and will involve a variety of activities and exercises ranging from pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar/syntax and conversation. Language instruction will support student engagement and cultural exchange with Nepali counterparts/community members and students. *Students may also choose to take an additional 3 credits (6 total credits) of language instruction.

Learning Goals: 

Provide students with a practical knowledge of spoken Nepali

  • for everyday navigation within the city
  • for use in community-based collaboration
  • for interactions with local students and partners
  • as the basis for future study and/or engagement in Nepal Students will be assessed based upon their completion of class exercises, vocabulary and conversational development.

Program Directors & Staff

Benjamin Spencer, Department of Landscape Architecture, Program Director

Laure Heland, Department of Landscape Architecture, Program Co-Director

David Citrin, Department of Anthropology and Global Health, Program Coordinator

Shree Krishna Dhital, Program On-Site Coordinator

Sunita Subba, Language Instructor

Manish Chalana, Department of Urban Design and Planning (tbd)

Program Expenses

Cost: $7,000

Estimated Program Fee of $7,000, the UW Study Abroad Fee ($350), airfare, food (<$10/day), UW Study Abroad Insurance ($62/month), other health expenses/immunizations and personal spending money.

Average Airplane Ticket Price

$1,200 - $1,500* roundtrip

*Subject to when & where you buy your ticket

Payment Schedule

Program fees will be posted to your MyUW student account and can be paid the same way that you pay tuition and other fees. Check your MyUW Account periodically for due dates.

Payment Type Payment Amount Payment Due Date
Non-Refundable Study Abroad Fee $350 January 19, 2018
Program Fee Balance $7,000 January 19, 2018


There are a variety of scholarships available to help fund your study abroad experience. Visit the Global Opportunities page for more information and application deadlines.


To be eligible to study abroad, all program participants must attend an in-person pre-departure orientation facilitated by the Study Abroad office as well as your program-specific orientations, offered by your program director.

You must register for orientation through your online study abroad account in order to attend scheduled orientations. You can visit the Orientation section of our website to view the current orientation schedule.

Orientation must be completed prior to the enrollment deadline for the quarter that you are studying abroad.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Most forms of financial aid can be applied to study abroad. You can verify that your financial aid award will apply to your program costs by contacting the Financial Aid Office. Financial aid or scholarships awarded as tuition waivers or tuition exemptions might not apply so you will need to verify that these funds are eligible for use with study abroad by contacting the funding office.

Financial aid and most scholarships are disbursed according to the UW academic calendar (at the beginning of the quarter). If your program starts before the start of the UW quarter, your financial aid will not be available to you prior to your departure. If your program starts after the first day of the quarter, your financial aid will be disbursed at the start of the program. In either of these cases, you will have to finance any upfront costs such as airfare, health insurance and the start of your time abroad on your own. Please take this into consideration when you are making plans.

Revision Request

In some instances you may qualify for an increase in your financial aid award (typically in loan funds). Check with the Financial Aid Office about your options. To request a revision in your aid, you will need to submit the following paperwork to the Financial Aid Office:

  1. Revision Request Form
  2. Budget of student expenses for your program: The UW Study Abroad Office will upload this budget to your study abroad account after a signed contract has been submitted to the UW Study Abroad Office. You can request an unofficial copy of this budget by emailing

Visit the Finances section of our website to learn more about disbursement, revising your aid package, short-term loans and scholarships.

Application Process

The application includes a Personal Statement, three short answer questions, one recommendation from a professor or TA, and electronic signature documents related to UW policies and expectations for study abroad. Following the on-line application process students may be contacted by the Program Director for an in-person interview. Once an admission decision has been made regarding your application, you will be notified by the study abroad system via email.


UW Study Abroad is not responsible for obtaining visas for study abroad program participants. The cost and requirements for obtaining visas vary. It is your responsibility to determine visa requirements for all countries you plan to visit while abroad including countries that you plan to visit before or after your study abroad program. You can do so by calling the consular offices of those countries or checking the following website:

Note: If you are not a U.S. citizen, consult the embassy or consulate of the countries you will visit to learn their document requirements. You can check the following website to find contact information for the consulate of the country you will be visiting:

For non-U.S. citizens, the procedures that you will need to follow may be different than those for U.S. citizens. It is important to initiate this process as soon as possible in order to assemble documents and allow time for lengthy procedures.

Disability Accommodations

The University of Washington is committed to providing access and reasonable accommodation in its services, programs, activities, and education for individuals with disabilities. To request disability accommodation for this program, contact Disability Resources for Students at least 8 weeks in advance of your departure date. Contact info at


$350 of the total program fee and the $350 UW Study Abroad Fee are non-refundable and non-revocable once a contract has been submitted, even if you withdraw from the program. Students withdrawing from a program are responsible for paying a percentage of the program fee depending on the date of withdrawal. More details about the withdrawal policy are included in your payment contract. No part of the program fee is refundable once the program has begun. The date of withdrawal is considered the date (business day) a withdrawal form is received by the UW Study Abroad Office. Notice of withdrawal from the program must be made in writing by completing the following steps:

1. Provide notice in writing to the Program Director that you will no longer be participating in the program for which you have signed a contract and accepted a slot.

2. Submit a signed withdrawal form to the UW Study Abroad Office, 459 Schmitz Hall.

Visit the Withdrawals section of our website for more information.