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BYU Students Learn About Geology, Culture in Himalayas

Professors Mike Dorais, Ron Harris and Jani Radebaugh of the BYU Department of Geological Sciences directed an expedition to the Himalayas in August 2009, allowing students to gain hands-on geological knowledge and learn much about the Indian people and culture.

Adam McKean, a graduate student in geology from Colorado Springs, Colo., explained how the trip solidified his education.

“In geology, hands-on experience in the field is very important,” he said. “To actually go to India and see what I had been learning for years … cemented the concepts taught in my classes. There is a big difference between learning about glaciers [by] seeing them in [lecture slides] or videos and standing at the toe of an alpine glacier.”

Chris Spencer, a graduate student working on a thesis about the Himalayas, echoed McKean.

“The grandeur of the Himalayas cannot be fully appreciated on Google Earth,” he said.

Organized leadership and in-depth learning maximized this hands-on educational experience. Tyler Hair, a senior studying geology, recalls the trip’s well-planned excursions.

“As we drove through the mountains each day, we would stop at predetermined field sites where we could discuss specific concepts and connect them visually with the examples that we could see and touch,” he said. “Our experienced professors would then fill in any gaps and continue the discussion further.”

The group also gained valuable knowledge from the people of India. Two students and a professor from the University of Delhi accompanied the group. These native Indians explained many local customs and their origins.

Hair said he distinctly remembers when one of the student guides explained the Indian tradition of arranged marriages.

“This was a completely foreign topic to me, but in it I recognized a great level of trust, patience, and preparation required by all parties,” he said.

In addition to a better understanding of this foreign culture, the students acquired a greater awareness and appreciation for their own American lifestyles.

“I will never forget the poverty and hardships that I saw among the people,” McKean said. “I learned a great lesson about happiness and living with what I have.”

Hair said he has experienced lasting growth and improvement as a result of the Himalayan trip.

“I am a better student and a more well-rounded person as a result of traveling to India,” he said.

-- Natalie Wilson, College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences

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