Visiting Student Groups
SECMOL has a wing operating as a travel agency, specialising in student groups interested in cultural exchange and environmental and development issues. We host a few selected groups each year. They are mostly groups of students, and occasionally groups of adults on learning tours.
Groups stay at SECMOL Campus and share in daily activities and discussions. Our Ladakhi students appreciate the chance to meet young people from different countries, and to practice their English in real communicative situations. For full-service groups, we take care of all the local travel and activities, which can include homestays in Ladakhi villages, treks, and visits to monasteries, historical sites and social or environmental organisations.
The SECMOL experience is ideal for student groups that want authentic interactions with Ladakhis and to explore development and environmental issues. Ladakh is a perfect destination in summer because the weather is pleasant and mostly dry while the rest of India has the hot monsoon season.
We have extensive experience organising the following activities:
- Homestays, often in villages off the beaten path. One recent group stayed in a village that has never had a tourist group before, and helped with the barley and apricot harvests. Another group stayed in a village in Changthang, next to an important but little-visited monastery.
- Stay at SECMOL’s solar-powered Campus near Leh together with Ladakhi students. Experience first-hand the solar-heated buildings and solar electricity, cookers and water heaters. Have conversations with Ladakhi students at SECMOL. Some recent groups have done volunteer work projects at the campus. Others have had Ladakhi guest speakers come in. As a base for your visits around Leh, you can stay at a hotel in town or a nearby village, homestays, or at SECMOL Campus, depending on your needs and interests.
- Visit local organisations to see sustainable development, wildlife conservation, renewable energy, or women’s empowerment projects, among others. Visit ancient Buddhist monasteries and other religious sites, local festivals, museums, etc.
- Trek in the mountains or from village to village, tailoring the trek to your level of challenge. Stay in village homestays that allow you to experience authentic village life while contributing to the village economy, or camp in tents.
We attempt to bridge the gap between cities and villages, and extend the benefits of tourism to villagers, while preserving the fragile environment. The profits support SECMOL students’ own stay at SECMOL and educational tour.
If you are thinking of planning a trip for a group of students, contact us. Please do not consider bringing a group to Ladakh for less than 7 days because of the altitude, or to SECMOL for less than 6 days to give us enough time to get to know each other.
Some groups that visit:
National Geographic Student Expeditions sends students every year to interact with SECMOL students while learning photography and cultural geography with their own instructors.
Journeys With Meaning, based in Bombay, brings groups from all over India to interact and share ideas with SECMOL students, and to experience ecological living at our solar heated campus. Here’s a brief blog that Isha school students wrote after their visit to SECMOL
Julay Ladakh brings Japanese tourists and students of sustainable development for stays and to discuss education and development. They organise Ladakh Wisdom Forum and a conference about Alternative Education.
YakTrak Sacred Journeys brings students from Serkong School in Tabo Spiti every year. Kranti, a radical and rights-based group in Mumbai, brought a group of daughters of sex workers. Young Innovators Foundation in Mumbai brought a group of tribal youth . Manzil has brought groups of low-income children from Delhi. SECMOL is happy to form partnerships with groups of underprivileged youth elsewhere.
Putney Student Travel sends high school students to interact with Ladakhi peers at SECMOL and learn about sustainable development. Blog 2015 shows some learning activities that a student group can do at SECMOL.
Outlook Expeditions brings groups of students from schools in the UK to volunteer at SECMOL for a week.
College students in Singapore come to volunteer with support from Youth Expedition Projects (YEP) some years in June or December.
Rønde Efterskole, Denmark, sent a group of students to stay for one week every March or April from 2010 through 2015.
Vermont Intercultural Semesters (VIS) brought foreign high school and gap year students to stay at SECMOL for 3 months, joining SECMOL’s Ladakhi students for work, activities and conversation, and also to do their own independent study projects in Ladakh. The last semester came in 2011. Read their websites and blogs if you are considering organising student groups for a longer stay and collaboration. Blog 2010.
Comments from some SECMOL tour participants
SECMOL organized transportation and activities for 16 students during our 3 week stay in Ladakh. We met with NGO’s in Leh… Our guide and translator, Thinlas Chorol, was extremely knowledgeable and is Ladakh’s only female trekking guide. We trekked in the Sham region west of Leh, and stayed in Ladakhi homes where students helped prepare traditional dishes. The students had an amazing time during our extended homestay in Takmachik village. For three days we helped families with harvesting and threshing barley, collecting and pitting apricots, and making delicious jam. At SECMOL Campus, our student group was integrated into SECMOL’s daily schedule including meal preparation and work responsibilities like maintaining solar panels, milking cows, managing waste and recycling, maintaining the dry composting toilets and general upkeep of the campus. We had English conversation classes with the Ladakhi students, made friends, and most of all enjoyed singing and dancing together in the evenings!
Francesca Nicosia (Group Leader, Putney Student Travel)
Staying at the SECMOL campus has opened my eyes to the sustainable lifestyle that Ladakhis have been working hard to maintain. Spending time with the SECMOL students during the conversation classes allowed me to better understand the way the Ladakhis live and how they are planning to develop. This whole experience at the SECMOL campus has been extremely fulfilling and life changing.
Arielle Schneck, New Jersey, USA (student)
The trek pushed us out of our comfort zones, but in the best possible way. Thinlas, our guide, made our trek great, and kept our spirits up over 3 high mountain passes. The views were amazing, and it was surreal to be hiking and staying in the Himalayas. It’s an experience we’ll never forget.
Sabrina Arora and Sloane Winters, USA (students)
SECMOL was a great place to base our month-long program out of. They arranged exclusive interactions between our students and Ladakhi SECMOL students, a 4-day trek and 5-day homestay where the group got to experience life in a variety of Ladakhi villages, and participate in the annual barley and apricot harvests. That you to all the SECMOL staff and students for amazing hospitality and wonderful experiences!
Payal Shah, Putney GAIA leader
Talking with the SECMOL students in conversation class was really interesting. Their English improved so much in the time I was there, and they are so dedicated! I will never forget the time I spent at SECMOL and the friends I made.
Molly Schwartz, West Bloomfield, Michigan, Andover High School
My four-day homestay was an experience that I will forever treasure and fondly remember. After the four days, my hosts had really become my “Ladakhi family”. Living with them in their home and working with them in the fields, I had the opportunity to experience Ladakhi life in all of its beauty and simplicity. Furthermore, I experienced the unspoken bond that unites human beings all over the world. Thank you SECMOL!
Emily Gogolak, Arizona, USA (student)
SECMOL has created an extremely unique and supportive environment where people from all over the world can feel comfortable and inspired. Meal times in particular allowed me to interact with all the students in a comfortable and laid back environment. SECMOL is an incredible place for anyone to come learn whether you’re a student or a volunteer.
Pamela Safirstein, Ridgewood NJ, Ridgewood High School
I was amazed by the tour of the solar energy systems on SECMOL Campus. I couldn’t believe that it was completely off the grid, and that the buildings stay warm in winter with no heating but solar.
Miles Hume, Saxtons River, VT, The Putney School
Although the trek was difficult, I loved doing it because it gave us Putney students a chance to get to know those SECMOL students who came along with us. Not only did they teach us things about Ladakhi culture from an invaluable viewpoint, we also became close friends, which made the whole experience so much more meaningful!
Cate Littlefield, Darien CT, Milton Academy