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India: Religious Pluralism in Practice

For more information:

Please e-mail Dr. Corrine Dempsey, program coordinator or call her directly in the Religious Studies Department at:

Student Spotlight

India Trip Kerala Kids 2013Megan Matott '14
Biology Major (Pre-Med) & Religious Studies Minor

“Why would someone who has never left the country hop on a 500-person plane and travel over 20 hours to reach the other side of the world? … I did it because I knew we were going to one of the most extraordinary, and unique places in the world: Kerala, IndiaI have such great appreciation for the people that went on the trip, those responsible for taking us, and even in myself for stepping out of my comfort zone.  As I see it, the people are just as beautiful as the country.   I feel like I took away something that I will hold near and dear to my heart for the rest of my life.  I learned not just about religious diversity and the ways pluralism can work in a modernizing society, but I got a taste of what it takes from us as individuals to create a society in which religious pluralism can peacefully thrive.  After countless visits to Indian orphanages, temples, churches, family homes, and colleges, my final question is, 'So when are we going back?!'"


India: Religious Pluralism in Practice

General Program Description

 Objectives of RES/AST Study Abroad

  • To provide an opportunity for art therapy graduate students and undergraduate students in religious studies and Asian studies to gain international, firsthand exposure to inter-religious dialogue “on the ground.”
  • To provide exposure and opportunities for interaction with religious practitioners from a variety of religious backgrounds to expand competence in intercultural and inter-religious affairs.
  • To engage in an experiential learning component using methods from art therapy.
  • Short-term study abroad in India is accompanied by a 3-credit creative art therapy or religious studies/Asian studies courses offered in the Spring 2013 that additionally offers students language and cultural training before departure.

 Please view the India Brochure for additional information.

Program Highlights:

The Nazareth College Department of Religious Studies and the Asian Studies and Creative Arts Therapy Programs are planning a 14-day international study abroad program in Kerala, India for December 2012/January 2013. This program is run in conjunction with Rajagiri School of Social Work in Kochi and the Amrita University in Kollam and will provide learning opportunities through direct exposure to a variety of religious sites and international service-learning experiences in the richly pluralistic state of Kerala, India. 

Program Details

Course Information

RES 342/AST 342 Religious Pluralism in Practice: Kerala, India

(CAT 613 Intercultural and Ethical Issues in Creative Arts Therapy)

RES 342 Kerala Syllabus


Detailed Itinerary for Kerala

Depart JFK on December 28 and arrive on December 29th

12-29-12 through 1-1-13: Kochi. Stay @ Ernakulam YMCA

  • Visit Fort Cochin, home of Jewish synagogue, Jew town, and Portuguese Churches
  • Visit Hindu temples, Muslim mosques, and various cultural sites in Ernakulam city.
  • See hub of spice trade in Ernakulam's merchant district. (Since spices are largely responsible for Kerala's rich pluralism.)
  • Visit Marxist headquarters. Marxists are democratically elected in Kerala, adding another layer to its pluralism

1-2-13 through 1-3-13: Bharanganam. Stay @ St. Alphonsa pilgrimage site

  • Tour Kurisumala, a Christian ashram-monastery run by monks of an ancient Syrian rite. The site, nestled in the mountains above Kochi, incorporates Hindu ritual and meditative practices.
  • Tour St. Alphonsa's pilgrimage site, home of India's first native-born Catholic saint. Hindus, Muslims, and Christians make up pilgrim population

1-3-13 through 1-6-13: Kottayam. Stay @ homestays

  • Visit village churches and temples that maintain a sibling relationship -church saint and temple deity- in popular folklore and practice.
  • Visit ancient churches and temples.
  • Wander around Kottayam marketplace.
  • Trip to mountain orphanage run by local Pentecostal community. Art therapy project at orphanage

1-6-13 through 1-10-13: Kollam. Stay @ Amrita ashram- arrive by train

  • Stay at Amrita ashram where regular sessions on ayurvedic healing, yoga, meditation take place. Also receive hugs by Amritanandamayi Ma, world famous guru, renown for social outreach programs and hugs.
  • Tour of various outreach sites lead by staff at the Amrita University.
  • Trip to the beach and surrounding Hindu temples and Muslim mosques.
  • Visit with students at the University interested in similar outreach work.

1-10-13 through 1-13-13: Kochi. Stay @ Rajagiri College- arrive by backwater boat

  • Visit to orphanage run by S.O.S. Art therapy project at orphanage.
  • Art therapy students will lead a demonstration and explanation of our art therapy projects to students at Rajagiri College.
  • Final sight-seeing in Kochi.

Depart Kochi January 13th and arrive in JFK January 14th

Costs and Financial Aid


Airfare: $1,800

Travel visa: $150

Travel Insurance: $79

On-the-ground costs: $635

Total cost= $2,664

*Please note: All rates are subject to change.

Application Deadlines


Transportation and Documents

All students will need a valid passport that continues to be valid at least six months after the conclusion of the semester program in India. They will also need to obtain travel insurance and a tourist visa.

Living Accomodations

The students will stay at a variety of places including: Ernakulam YMCA, homestays in Kottayam, St. Alphonsa pilgrimage site, Rajagiri College, and Amrita ashram.

About India

Kochi (colonial name Cochin) is a vibrant city situated on the southwest coast of the Indian peninsula in the breathtakingly scenic and prosperous state of Kerala, hailed as "God's Own Country." Kochi is arguably the ideal starting point for exploring the unfathomable diversity and beauty of Kerala, rated in the top three tourist destinations by the World Travel & Tourism Council and featured in National Geographic Traveler's "50 greatest places of a lifetime."

Rajagiri College of Social Sciences was established in Kochi in 1955. The School of Social Work was one of the pioneering institutions in South India, establishing programs and setting the standards for the field. Rajagiri has successfully established and maintained an atmosphere of learning and the highest level of academic performance by providing state-of-the-art infra-structure and facilities. International partnerships have been established with reputed Social Work institutions across the globe. This allows the College, the faculty and the students at Rajagiri to become truly global, with its graduates being placed and working internationally.

Amrita University's Amritapuri campus is nestled in the picturesque village of Vallikavu, across the beautiful and famed backwaters of Kerala. The Arabian Sea that borders Kerala on the west is only a few hundred meters from the campus. Located close to the international headquarters of the Mata Amritanandamayi Ashram, the campus provides a learning environment that harmoniously blends science and spirituality. Students have a unique opportunity to nurture values and self-discipline.

Please see the websites below for more information:

Amrita University

Rajagiri College of Social Sciences

St. Alphonsa Pilgrimage

Republic of India

Information about India

The World Factbook: India

Student Blogs

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