Family, Religion, and Well-Being in India

Family, Religion, and Well-Being in India: A Study Abroad Workshop

January 2-20, 2015
Director: Dr. Vaishali Raval, Associate Professor of Psychology
Co-director: Dr. Liz Wilson, Professor of Comparative Religion

This study abroad program was specifically designed for students in psychology, religion, and global health, providing a unique opportunity to study families, gender, health, and well-being within cultural context.  Prior to travelling, we engaged with the scholarly literature focusing on the role of culture in understanding human psyche and behavior. In particular, cultural and cross-cultural perspectives on family relationships, gender, emotion, child rearing, and mental health in India were explored, while critically evaluating the limited applicability of psychological theories to international populations.

The two-week study abroad began in Bangalore, nicknamed India’s “silicon Valley” where we visited Christ University; the divisions of community health and psychiatry at St. John’s Research Institute; the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (which is Asia’s largest center for mental health research, training, and clinical services); Vimochana (NGO that supports women’s rights); Parivarthan Counseling, Training, and Research Centre; and Vishwas (a peer counseling centre). 

We then travelled to Mysore, the beautiful city of Palaces where we visited University of Mysore, Vivekananda Institute of Indian Studies, the gorgeous Mysore Palace, and a variety of religious sites including the Chamundi Hill Temple (a Hindu temple), St. Philomena’s church (one of the oldest churches in India), and climbing up to Jain pilgrim destination Sharvanabelagola (3350 feet above the sea level). 

We then travelled to North India-- to the Capital New Delhi. Here we visited Action for Autism (an organization that runs schools and other programs for children and adults with autism), religious sites such as the Jama Masjid (the principle mosque of Old Delhi) and Gurudwara Bangla Sahib (a prominent Sikh house of worship), and historic monuments such as the Red Fort, Qutub Minar, India Gate, and memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, Raj Ghat.

The last city on our journey was Agra, where we visited Fatehpur Sikri, a medieval town built by the Mughal emperor Akabar in 1569 and the Taj Mahal. This combination of South and North India allowed students to experience the tremendous within-culture diversity and various subcultures of India.