“IFSA allowed us to have so much independence and flexibility, which allowed us to engage with the local culture and explore the city right from the start.”
- DATES AND FEES
Develop the tools to navigate Sri Lanka as a cultural insider and informed researcher. This fascinating island is your classroom as you learn the local language, live with host families and conduct an Independent Study Project on one of its deeply-rooted traditions or contemporary post-war challenges.
The ISLE Program takes an interdisciplinary, experiential approach to understanding the social, political, economic and environmental issues facing the diverse communities of Sri Lanka. The 16-credit semester is comprised of a two required core courses – one language course and a seminar course, which includes an independent research project – plus two electives. All courses are worth 4 Butler University credits.
Sinhala I Language: Intensive language instruction in colloquial Sinhala, emphasizing functional use of the language in contexts that students can be expected to encounter in daily life.
Sri Lankan Studies Seminar & Independent Study Seminar: The Sri Lankan Studies Seminar is a collection of field-based lectures led by professors and scholars from the University of Peradeniya. Each lecture offers a glimpse into a different aspect of Sri Lankan culture and society, so as to provide students with a holistic understanding of the island and its people. This course includes short day trips and overnight visits to villages, NGOs and historical and religious sites throughout the island. The Sri Lankan Studies Seminar prepares students for the culminating Independent Study Project, which consists of four weeks of field research. Students submit a final research paper and present their work at a day-long symposium.
Not all electives may be offered in a given semester depending on enrollment.
Religion, Ritual and Everyday Life: This course, taught by a team of faculty and local scholars, provides insights into the religious life of various ethnic communities in Sri Lanka: Sinhala Buddhists, Tamil Hindus and Muslims. It will include an examination of different forms of worship at home and in religious shrines, healing rituals as well as rites of passage. The course also explores inter- and intra-religious tensions as well as common ritual practices that intersect religious boundaries.
Women, Gender, Culture and Nation: Various forces shape women’s options and life-experiences in Sri Lanka today. This course introduces women in both the cultural and material realms of Sri Lankan society in order to highlight the dialectic between the “real” (i.e., the actual material conditions) and the “imagined” (i.e., stereotypes and images) that shapes the gendered status-quo and women’s options. Students first explore the production and reproduction of women from a cultural perspective, then examine the materiality of women’s lives as determined by prevailing legal, economic and political structures – the attempt always being to tease out the concordances and discordances between the two in shaping Sri Lankan women’s lives.
Plants, Herbs and Traditional Medicine in Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka is a country with a rich heritage of connection to the natural environment and diverse medical traditions including Western medicine, Veddah and Ayurveda. This course provides an overview of this healthcare diversity by examining how the country’s medical traditions developed over time and their contemporary usage as health care sources in both formal and informal settings within a system of plural medicine. Students participate in a number of field visits, enabling them to get a firsthand look at the use of traditional medicine in Sri Lanka.
Biodiversity in Sri Lanka: The course addresses the importance of biodiversity and its relationships with sustainable development and poverty alleviation in a case study of Sri Lanka. Students gain a greater understanding of the problems associated with biodiversity conservation in a densely populated tropical country and society’s dependence on it for sustainable development. This course provides a foundation to inspire students to become informed decision-makers and contribute towards the conservation of the world’s biodiversity.
Modern Sri Lankan Politics: This course introduces the salient features of modern Sri Lanka politics, with special attention paid to state-building and crises in governance across post-colonial developing societies. Though Sri Lanka was regarded as a model democratic welfare state in the third world during the early years of independence, its image changed with the subsequent eruption of ethnic violence. The conclusion of the lengthy civil war in 2009 has opened up opportunities for Sri Lanka to embark on a new journey towards achieving sustainable peace and building a cohesive society. At the same time, a number of serious challenges have emerged internally and externally that need to be addressed carefully in the post-war political context.
Ethnicity and Social Identity in Sri Lanka: This course explores Sri Lankan society through three primary bases of personal and social identity –caste, social class and ethnicity. In particular it considers why ethnicity is more important than either caste or social class in shaping group processes, political dynamics and social conflict in contemporary Sri Lanka. In the post-war era, instead of promoting ethnic reconciliation, celebration of the war victory, militarization and economic development have been aggressively pursued by the state, disregarding the political demands from minority communities. In this course the upsurge in ethnicity and nationalism is viewed not as a uniquely Sri Lankan phenomenon, but a worldwide process in some ways contrary to the expected trajectory of globalization.
Ethnicity and Politics in Sri Lanka: This course provides an introduction to ethnicity and politics in Sri Lanka and explores why and how ethnicity has emerged as an important factor in shaping social processes, political dynamics and social conflict in contemporary Sri Lanka. Beginning with a conceptual discussion on ethnicity, identity politics, ethno—nationalism, and changing dynamics of ethnicity, discussion topics include the impact of ethnicity on electoral politics, conflict, democracy, governance, development and reconciliation. Students will be encouraged to reflect how ethnicity as well as religion has played a role in conflict, politics and development in the past and how they continue to be important in a variety of ways in Sri Lanka
Sinhala II Language: Sinhala II focuses on improving the four language skills (speaking, reading, writing and listening). More class time will be spent on practicing spoken Sinhala. Individual and pair activities, role plays and presentations will be used in class in order to continue building on the vocabulary and conversation structures learned in Sinhala I. Some activities will be conducted out of the class and in real life atmospheres.
Tamil I Language: Fundamentals of conversational and written Tamil for beginning students.
INDEPENDENT STUDY PROJECT
Each ISLE student conducts independent field research on a topic of their choice. Under the supervision of their Resident Director and a faculty member appropriate to their topic of interest, such as religious practices, women’s issues, politics, public health, or environmental conservation, are expected to produce a formal research paper and oral presentation. Students have regular meetings with the Resident Director and faculty guides to discuss the formation and execution of their research plans. Previous students’ Independent Study Projects have addressed topics such as:
- A Take on Sri Lankan Women's Empowerment through the Lens of Reproductive Health and Family Planning
- (En)Acting Change: Politics and Reconciliation in Contemporary Sri Lankan Theater
- Researching the Mind and the Matter: Experiencing and Exploring Meditation in Sri Lanka
- The Ability within Disability: Access to Social Services for Differently Abled Young Adults in Postwar Jaffna
- Skin Deep: A Survey of Reforms for Freedom of the Press in Sri Lanka since the 2015 Election
- Deforestation, Pesticides, and Compost: Agriculture in the Hill Country of Sri Lanka and its Environmental Impacts
After you return to the U.S., IFSA will send an official Butler University transcript to your home university with your coursework converted to the U.S. credit system. You will also have access to an unofficial transcript in your IFSA Student Portal. The transcript reflects courses taken, credits attempted, and grades earned during your term abroad. This service is included in your study abroad program at no additional cost.
Meet Your Program Advisor
What Our Students Say
“The biggest thing I learned is the value of immersing oneself in a culture unlike that which you come from. Even though Australia speaks English, the culture has taught me to relax and take everything one step at a time.”
“I enjoyed the academic and personal freedom of my IFSA program. Being able to take whatever classes I wanted/needed in order to satisfy my requirements for major and what happened to interest me set the foundation for my study abroad experience.”
Student, New Zealand
“For two years, I have tried to manage and exist with depression and anxiety. Coming to New Zealand enlivened me and gave me the tools to function and create the life I want and need. I was able to live somewhere for the first time away from family and friends and thrive in it. It allowed me to realize my potential and ability.”
“I’ve learned about the culture my family comes from, more about the world in general, and the different ways there are to simply live. Above all, I think I’ve learned a lot about myself and my behavior—how I tend to act and react in situations. I’ve also become more assertive, courageous, and confident through this experience.”
“My IFSA program was amazing. They really do a great job making sure you adjust well and are well equipped for your time abroad.”
“Through IFSA, I learned to enjoy the small things in life, was able to better understand a culture different from mine, developed intellectually through independent study, and improved my Spanish.”
“The connections I made during my time in Scotland was the most enjoyable aspect of my IFSA study abroad abroad experience. I was able to connect with peers on the program, IFSA staff, and the local culture. Being part of the St. Andrews basketball team really facilitated my relationship with the campus and its students.”
“Through my IFSA program, I volunteered at a travel startup where I initiated and developed a six-month lesson plan for the first English teaching program in a Mayan community, created a cost plan for program volunteers, and translated itineraries.”
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