Summer 2018 Applications Accepted Starting October 1st Notify Me

How does appropriate development build upon and sustain local culture and environment?
Days: 28 • Group Size: 10 - 12 • Ages: 15 - 18
June 23 - July 20 Available
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India: Society, Ecology, and Culture

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India Summer Program

Sustainable Summer’s India program, in the rugged Himalayan region of Ladakh, is an intensive 4 week experience that explores the intersection of society, ecology, and culture in this remote part of India. Set in a dramatic desert landscape in the shadow of the world’s highest mountains and sometimes called “Little Tibet” for its cultural and historical ties to Tibet, geopolitics and Ladakh’s remoteness resulted in isolation from the powerful forces of modernity even while other parts of India developed rapidly in the latter part of the 20th Century. Now Ladakh is charting an economic path forward. This program attempts to understand efforts to advance sustainable development in harmony with the local traditions and culture in Ladakh.

This program is for you if you’re seeking some incredible Himalayan scenery, a physically demanding and culturally rich experience, and are eager to unpack a whole lot of really fascinating sustainability opportunities and challenges.

In this Sustainable Summer Program…

  • You’ll connect with Ladahki teenagers at a cutting-edge alternative high school built on permaculture principles
  • You’ll visit a Buddhist monastery built into a cliff wall a thousand feet above the “Grand Canyon of the Himalaya”
  • You’ll share meals and experience farm life during a homestay in Tamachik, the first eco-model village of Ladakh

This is a truly special part of the world. Stunning natural beauty and a remarkable cultural heritage more than justify a visit. But we also want to consider this place in the context of sustainability. We’ll study a cross-section of sustainable development initiatives in Ladakh, including appropriate technologies (people-centric, small-scale, and socially and ecological ‘appropriate’); food and agriculture; water resource management; and empowerment and income generation in marginalized communities. We’ll consider competing models for development by comparing, for instance, the deployment of small-scale, locally autonomous renewable energy solutions, such as micro-hydro and solar, as an alternative to capital-intensive technologies (think huge dams and massive public works projects).

At a macro-level, we’ll also try to understand why millions in India still lack the basic human needs of clean water and and education, and what development pathways exist to address this problem based on lessons learned in Ladakh. We’ll spend much of our time living and learning with an organization that is addressing these challenges through education where our students will spend two hours of every day in a “conversation” class with Indian high school students helping them with English language acquisition. We’ll also experience Ladakh’s rich culture, explore its bounty of natural wonders, and take part in all sorts of other unforgettable experiences on this Sustainable Summer program in India and the Himalaya.

This is a challenging program. High altitude, rustic living conditions, intense cultural experiences, hiking, and other physical and emotional demands will be placed on participants.

Not sure if this is the right option for you? Use our Compare Programs page to help you assess which Sustainable Summer is the best fit for your interests and comfort zone.



through Ladakh's otherworldly landscape


the "Grand Canyon of the Himalaya"


environmental leaders working on pressing food, water, and energy issues

2017 Facilitators *

Skyeler Congdon

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Kiska Kosakowski

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India Testimonials

I believe that Sage had her most memorable summer yet. Both programs seemed to draw remarkably intelligent and nice kids. Sage seems to have been exposed to so many new perspectives and has developed a zest for wanting to make positive change. Suddenly she is seemingly well versed and has reasoned opinions about issues she […]

  Nancy,  parent from Rumsen, NJ

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Student Stories

Core Curriculum & Program Components

Much More Than A Tour

Amazing destination? Check. Fun and authentic experiences? Absolutely. A smart, down-to-earth group of like-minded teens? Yup. An awesome itinerary and first-in-class lodging are just the start. Our programs prepare teens to become environmental leaders through dynamic place-based learning.
Field Studies
How does appropriate development build upon and sustain local culture and environment? This essential question guides our experience studying sustainability in . Participants – through discussions, workshops, site visits, and fieldwork – will investigate sustainability with the understanding that truly sustainable solutions take into account not only the environment, but also the people, culture and economy of a given place.
Leadership Activities
Our approach to leadership development is adapted from the Stanford Graduate School of Education’s youth leadership curriculum.
Design Thinking Challenge
Participate in a half-day design thinking workshop, including a real innovation challenge applied to a local community problem. Design thinking is a formal process innovators use to create solutions to problems. We'll learn about human-centered design, and then engage members of the local community to conceive a project that is usable, sustainable, and lead to better outcomes within the community.
Independent Project
Learning happens best through a constructivist approach of inquiry, action, and reflection. Students should be prepared to engage in an independent project for the duration of the program that follows this approach. It can take the form of journalism, photography, film, research, advocacy, or other. Some students (for instance, those in an IB degree program) may find that they have a school-related project that can connect to Sustainable Summer. Others will be asked to develop a project concept through a guided process pre-program. The final "deliverable" is completed after the program.
Case Study
It's easy to be green when you have the time, resources, and autonomy to do so. But the real-world is far more complicated. We'll work through a multi-stakeholder case study related to a local issue so students can better understand the process of negotiation and comprise that is needed to implement sustainable solutions.
Sustainability Action Plan
All students develop a Sustainability Action Plan, which outlines a proposed sustainability initiative to complete back home. The SAP is considered a work in progress that gets “workshopped” in small group settings throughout the program. The final version is shared with the group at the end of the program and “accountability partners” are established to encourage implementation of the outlined action steps.

Program Tuition

Each program has a tiered tuition rate: standard (full tuition), tuition assistance (80% of tuition), or scholarship (15 - 70% of tuition).

How It Works

$ 3695
  • This represents a 20% reduction of the standard course fee. Participants at this tuition rate cover only their direct participation costs, including lodging, meals, activities, in-country staff and transportation, and support for local projects. Participation at this level is based on the honor system. It is available to all families - no documentation required. We simply ask families to honestly consider their financial resources and ability to pay the full tuition rate.
$ 675 - 3145
  • Additional scholarship funding is available for students that are unable to participate at either of the other rates. Scholarship participants receive a 30 - 85% reduction of the standard course fee. Due to the limited availability of scholarship funds, a separate application is required, including a parent financial statement and recent tax return.

What's Included


in eco-lodges and other locally-owned (and often sustainably-minded) establishments


3 meals daily while in-country. Local cuisine, served family-style, is on order most days. Dietary restrictions can typically be accommodated.

Immersive Activities

Guided activities, from the adventurous to the cultural, are a regular part of the itinerary.

Dynamic Learning Opportunities

Place-based. Interactive. Fun. Our programs prepare teens to become environmental leaders.

Ground Transportation

Once in country, all travel will be by private coach when we are traveling any significant distance, although we may occasionally use other transport when traveling locally. This can range from a cattle truck to the local bus. Traveling like a local is part of the experience!

2 Full-Time Professional Facilitators

Our international field team includes returned Peace Corps volunteers, college professors, seasoned wilderness guides, sustainability graduate students, and similar.

Pre-Program Materials and Support

Students and parents receive comprehensive and prompt pre-program support.

Not Included

International airfare is not included. Personal expenses such as laundry, snacks, souvenirs, and internet or international phone calls, and other incidentals are also not included. There are internal flights on this program, estimated at an additional $250 USD.


We designate a recommended group flight for students. Students, whether arriving on our group flight or independently, will be met at the international arrivals area by our staff. Very detailed travel and booking instructions will be provided to all participants upon enrollment. We provide the below information as a courtesy to prospective families for planning purposes.

Our designated round trip group flight:

Escort on Both Outbound and Return Flight

Outbound Flight

UA 82

Return Flight

UA 83


  • Do not make any flight reservations until explicitly directed by Sustainable Summer. Enrolled families - please check your MySummer account for more information. This is the only source of completely accurate and up-to-date information about our flight logistics.
  • Not all of our group flights have a staff escort. Please see above for specifics and our Flights page for additional details.
  • Students NOT traveling on our designated group flight will be assessed a $35 fee if they arrive on a flight other than our specified group flight and/or a $35 fee for departing on a non-group flight ($70 total). Students must verify BEFORE BOOKING all non-group flight travel itineraries

28-Day Itinerary

  • Departure

    Most students will travel on our group flight from Newark (EWR) to New Delhi (DEL). This flight departs in the evening (NYC time) and arrives the following day in the evening (Delhi time).

    Day 1
  • Arrival

    Arrive in New Delhi in the evening local time. Transfer to hotel.

    Day 2
  • Flight to Leh
    Return to airport for morning flight to Leh. Transfer to hotel in Leh. Recovery, acclimatization, and orientation. Leh is a high-desert city in the Himalaya and the capital of the Leh region in northern India’s Jammu and Kashmir state. It was originally a stop for traders, but is now known primarily for its Buddhist sites and proximity to trekking and other outdoors activities. Due to its attitude of over 11,000 feet, we'll spend our first couple of days in Ladakh acclimatizing in Leh. Day 3
  • Tour of Leh
    Due to the altitude and jet lag, we still need to take it easy. We'll go on a tour of Leh, including the massive 17th-century Leh Palace, (modeled on the Dalai Lama’s former home in Tibet), which overlooks the old town’s bazaar and mazelike lanes. Days 4
  • Ladakh Environment And Health Organization
    Day at the Ladakh Environment And Health Organization (LEHO), which works on the issues of sustainable development, ecology, and health in the region. We'll stay four nights at the LEHO campus. This morning we'll meet with the organization's founder and director. In the afternoon, we'll tour the campus, including a passive solar installation. Day 5
  • Woman’s Alliance of Ladakh
    The Woman’s Alliance of Ladakh was founded with the goals of raising the status of rural women and strengthening local culture and agriculture. We'll seek a deeper understanding of Ladakh, its culture and traditional agriculture and crafts, in a three-day workshop at the Women’s Alliance that focuses on the problems posed by the globalization of the world economy, and the solutions that might be provided by localization. Days 6 - 8
  • Village Homestays
    We'll spend the next 4 nights in homestays in an "eco-village" developed by LEHO. Activities include a Ladakhi dance lesson, a module on water resource management, and a service project constructing a greenhouse with local people. Days 9 - 12
  • Rafting
    Raft a 28km section of Class III whitewater on the Zanskar, the so-called "Grand Canyon of the Himalaya" Day 13

    The Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL) was founded by a group of young Ladakhis with the aim to reform the educational system of Ladakh. Our students will be staying at the SECMOL Alternative School, an eco-friendly campus near Leh, where they will live alongside Ladakhi youth attending college in town.

    We'll start the morning with introductions, a tour of the campus, and then transition into games and our first "conversation class," a formalized part of the SECMOL education program that develops their student's English skills. In the afternoon, SECMOL students will teach our students about Ladakhi culture.

    Days 14 - 19
  • Trekking
    A six night trek through the incredible Himalaya, a highlight of the program. This is considered an "easy" trek by local standards, although even very fit students will be challenged as we hike through the valleys with an optional summit attempt for students that are up for it. In the evenings, we'll be in village homestays. Days 20 - 26
  • Return to Delhi

    Internal flight from Leh to Delhi

    Day 27
  • Departure
    Flight home to EWR. Evening departure from Delhi on Day 27. Morning arrival at EWR on Day 28. Days 27 - 28
  • An Important Note About Itinerary Changes

    Sustainable Summer reserves the right to change, alter, or amend the program itinerary. Changes can be made for various reasons including changes in weather or road conditions; to take advantage of a new activity or unscheduled opportunity (such as a local festival or event); to accommodate the health needs of an individual participant; or due to changes in activities or schedules of our local partners and providers.

    The itinerary shown here is based on previous programs and the anticipated day-to-day activities for this program. However, as with any travel experience, some changes may occur.