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- Fall: March 1
- Spring: October 15
About Intercollegiate Sri Lanka Education (ISLE) Program
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.
Intercollegiate Sri Lanka Education (ISLE) Program Benefits
- Set yourself apart by participating in the only academic and cultural immersion program in Sri Lanka
- Become part of the family with a homestay that offers an intimate look at daily Sri Lankan life and cultural traditions
- Gain valuable experience and give your resume a boost by conducting independent field-based research
- Take courses with faculty at the historic and prestigious University of Peradeniya
- Travel throughout the island to learn about its diverse populations, environments and social issues
Your success is our success! Whatever your goals, our approach is carefully designed to help you achieve them.
You will experience challenging, rewarding coursework in the highest quality classes, while receiving the academic support you need.
More than a tourist in a foreign country, you will engage in the community, build competencies, and develop yourself as a citizen of the world.
Our programs and practices reflect the value we place on diverse perspectives and are designed to support a variety of learners.
Round out your classroom experience with hands-on opportunities like internships, directed research, student teaching, community-based learning or volunteering, and cultural excursions.
You will have academic and personal mentors to assist with program choice, application, travel, cultural acclimation, language acquisition, class registration, academic issues, health and safety, and everything in between.
Academics at Intercollegiate Sri Lanka Education (ISLE) Program
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 Project: 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: 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.
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
All language and content courses are taught by faculty from our partner institution, the University of Peradeniya. Elective courses and field tours also include lectures and visits with scholars, government officials, NGOs and community representatives
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The IFSA-Butler Team
IFSA-Butler has a dedicated team and staff who are here to help every student prepare and be ready to achieve their goals at every step of the way.