Interdisciplinary field course to the Indian Himalayas (Sikkim)
Sikkim’s capital Gangtok, is a stunning city built on a steep slope with spectacular views of Kangchendzonga, the world’s 3rd highest mountain. The city is surrounded by subtropical rainforest, rice terraces, and is a paradise for butterflies and orchids. Gangtok is renowned as a centre for study of Buddhist philosophy and religion.
Geography and Biosciences students get an opportunity to meet academics of Sikkim University, Buddhist monks, local politicians and Sikkim’s Ministers alongside group project work. Some examples include the monsoon phenomena, biogeography and biodiversity, eco-tourism, and migration.
Download the Sikkim field course flyer
In my 3rd year I applied to take part in the interdisciplinary field trip to Sikkim in the Indian Himalayas. The group consisted of 5 students and 1 lecturer from biology, zoology, human and physical geography. As a group of people from different subjects, it was amazing to get to meet such a wide range of people and lecturers. We were put into interdisciplinary teams, in order to work on a project and learn from each other. This was an invaluable experience at this point in my degree, as it meant I gained a different outlook to research. The activities while in Sikkim were extraordinary, one day we would be collecting water samples and invertebrate surveys at a hydroelectric dam, and the next day we would be meeting students from the Sikkim University. Additionally we had lots of free time in the evenings to relax and play cards. We were even lucky enough to be in Sikkim during the Indian festival of light, Diwali. The town was full of beautiful lights and brightly dressed people dancing, which was followed by a hilarious trip to a Karaoke bar with Sikkimese locals. Throughout the trip we became a really close group; it really was the trip of a lifetime and we all made friends for life.
My experience in Sikkim was eye opening and humbling; the sheer beauty of the state and it's biodiversity was breathtaking.The people were welcoming and genuinely interested in what we were doing. I enjoyed the opportunity to make friends with the Sikkim University students many of which I am still friends with now. The Hidden Forest Retreat, (which is the hostel we stayed at) situated above most of Gangtok (the capital city) provided a great overview of the city, and my time in this retreat and it's view were among my highlights on the trip. If you have the opportunity to go, I would highly recommend it.
My experience of Sikkim has changed my perspectives as a biologist, I went with the view of gaining a deeper understanding and discovering a biological hotspot situated in the majestic mountains of the Indian Himalayas. In reflection of this trip, I realised that I had gained so much more than what I set out with. Before I knew it I was submerged into interdisciplinary viewpoints and how they are interlinked and connected between the society and the environment. I was captivated by the culture and now I can relate to why tradition is so important to the people, this was so evident at the monastery, Rumtek. At the beginning of the trip I struggled with remembering to reflect in my field notebook yet by the end of the week all I could think about was how we were viewing Sikkim at a snapshot in time where a fine balance between the rapid urbanisation and the environment's vulnerable state was established, one which may not exist in a few years time. As a scientist the skills I have gained from the trip to Sikkim have been invaluable and will continue to be throughout my career. The fond memories and the friendships made in the group, with the lecturers and students from Sikkim will stay with me forever. I cannot express what an extraordinary experience I had in Sikkim, it's certainly a place I wish to go back and explore more of.